Thursday, January 12, 2012

An update on Seven-Sky

While the briefing unfolds at the Supreme Court in NFIB v. Sebelius, HHS v. Florida, and Florida v. HHS, the other cases continue to percolate. Over the next two weeks, I will try to provide updates on all of them. I will start with the most prominent one, that decided by the D.C. Circuit on November 8, Seven-Sky v. Holder.

On November 30, the plaintiffs filed a petition for a writ of certiorari, which you can access here. The petition raises two questions:
1. Whether the D.C. Circuit, in conflict with the Eleventh Circuit, erred in concluding that the Commerce and Necessary and Proper Clauses grant Congress virtually unlimited power to compel American citizens to purchase products from a private company, such as a health insurance policy, for the remainder of their lives or be penalized annually. 
2. Whether the D.C. Circuit, in conflict with Sherbert v. Verner, 374 U.S. 398 (1963), erred in concluding that Petitioners Seven-Sky and Lee have not stated a plausible claim that their religious exercise is substantially burdened when they allege that the individual mandate compels them to either violate their religious beliefs by participating in a health insurance system or pay annual penalties for adhering to their religious beliefs.
Last week, the United States filed its response, which you can access here. In essence, the government argues that (a) question 1 is raised in the Florida cases, and thus this petition should be held for that case's resolution, and (2) the second question presents no circuit split, and is factbound (specific to these specific plaintiffs' religious beliefs) regardless, and thus should be denied.

On Tuesday of this week, the plaintiffs filed their cert reply brief, which you can access here.

Most likely, the Court will simply hold this petition Until June. Once it hands down its decision in the Florida cases, the justices will either (1) grant this petition, vacate the decision, and remand it to the lower courts; (2) deny the petition outright; or (3) deny on question 1 but grant on question 2, if they find it independently certworthy.