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By Jane Norman, CQ HealthBeat Associate Editor

Attorneys general from 21 states filed a brief Tuesday backing a legal challenge to the health care law that’s being pursued by Missouri’s lieutenant governor.

The brief includes state officials who are the plaintiffs in a separate multistate case pending in a federal appeals court in Florida. Their filing raises the profile of the Missouri suit, which hasn’t received much attention until now outside the state.

In another indication of heightened interest in the Missouri case, the brief was filed by Paul Clement, the same lawyer who is representing the 26 states involved in the Florida case. Clement is a former U.S. solicitor general.

Missouri’s lieutenant governor, Republican Peter Kinder, and four individuals in July 2010 challenged the law (PL 111-148PL 11-152) after the Missouri attorney general, Democrat Chris Koster, declined to join the multistate suit in Florida.

The case was dismissed on April 26 by U.S. District Court Judge Rodney W. Sippel of the Eastern District of Missouri, who said he didn’t have jurisdiction over the claims at hand.

Kinder, with representation from the nationally known Arent Fox law firm, appealed the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit, based in St. Louis, and asked for oral arguments. A date has not yet been set.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott announced the filing of the attorney generals’ brief. The other state AGs signing on to the brief are from Florida, Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin.

The health care law “rests on unprecedented assertions of federal authority, pushing even the most expansive conception of the federal government’s constitutional powers past the breaking point,” says the brief. “The federal government embraces a sweeping view of the Commerce Clause . . . that would imperil individual liberty, render Congress’ other enumerated powers superfluous and allow Congress to usurp the general police power reserved to the states.”

More than 20 challenges to the health care law are in various stages in the nation’s courts.

In the Florida case, the law was declared unconstitutional by U.S. District Court Judge Roger Vinson earlier this year. That decision was appealed by the U.S. government, oral arguments were held and a ruling has not yet been announced.

Oral arguments were held in May in two more challenges to the law in a federal appeals court in Richmond, Va., one filed by the commonwealth of Virginia and the second by Liberty University. There is no appeals ruling yet in those cases.

The only appeals court ruling so far came in yet another challenge to the law filed by the Thomas More Law Center of Ann Arbor, Mich., when an appeals court panel ruled 2-1 in June that the law is constitutional.

The Supreme Court is expected to hear and make a ruling on one or more of the challenges to the law during its term beginning in September.

 

Jane Norman can be reached at jnorman@cq.com

Source: CQ Online News
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