DC Circuit Upholds Individual Mandate

By Robyn Hagan Cain on November 08, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The DC Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion this morning upholding the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act in Seven-Sky v. Holder. With a little luck - and a Supreme Court grant of certiorari - this will be the last time that we write about a circuit court ruling on the individual mandate.

The latest addition to the appellate opinion bank means that 6 of 13 appellate circuits have produced some kind of opinion on the Affordable Care Act, whether on the constitutionality of the individual mandate or standing to challenge the law.

We've all read more about the Act than we care to think about, so we'll wrap this case up with three things you should know about the DC Circuit's take on the individual mandate.

  1. Non-partisan. Two judges voted in favor of the mandate: Judge Laurence Silberman, a Reagan nominee, and Senior Judge Harry Edwards, a Carter nominee. Judge Brett Kavanaugh, appointed by George W. Bush, dissented.

  2. Self-awareness. The DC Circuit Court of Appeals knows that this case is going to be decided in the Supreme Court. Judge Silberman started the majority opinion with a nod to the inevitable High Court ruling, noting "Since so much has already been written by our sister circuits about the issues presented by this case-which will almost surely be decided by the Supreme Court-we shall be sparing in adding to the production of paper." Sparing paper, in the DC Circuit, means limiting the opinion and dissent to 103 pages.

  3. Invasiveness, but not unconstitutional. The DC Circuit wrote that the individual mandate "certainly is an encroachment on individual liberty, but it is no more so than a command that restaurants or hotels are obliged to serve all customers regardless of race, that gravely ill individuals cannot use a substance their doctors described as the only effective palliative for excruciating pain, or that a farmer cannot grow enough wheat to support his own family."

If the Supreme Court picked its cases based on the best party names, Seven-Sky v. Holder would be a contender for a writ of certiorari. Since the Court is more concerned with the case and controversy at hand, the highly-respected DC Circuit's opinions are unlikely to see official review, but they will probably influence the Supreme Court's decision in the individual mandate challenge, reports Politico.

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