On Monday, the Supreme Court turned down an early challenge to President Barack Obama’s new health care law, the Associated Press reported. The decision to reject the case was not a surprise because no lower court had yet ruled on it.
Most notably, the ruling showed that Justice Elena Kagan would take part if the case does reach the high court in the future.
The court has noted Kagan’s absence in more than two dozen other cases, suggesting that she voted on the health care appeal.
Kagan has stepped aside from cases in which she was involved as a Justice Department official before joining the court.
Justice Clarence Thomas also apparently voted on the case. Some critics have called on Thomas to step aside from the health care cases because his wife, Virginia Thomas, has been an outspoken opponent of the law in her role as founder of the conservative advocacy group Liberty Central.
The Baldwin case on the new health legislation was an attempt to raise two questions: whether the new requirement that everyone have medical insurance by 2014 could be challenged now, and whether that insurance-purchase mandate was beyond Congress’s power under the Constitution. A federal judge in San Diego ruled that neither an individual nor an employer could show at this point that they would actually suffer any injury from the law, so they lacked “standing” to sue. District Judge Dana M. Sabraw dismissed the case.
Steve Baldwin, a former California state legislator and an advocate of limited government, and the Pacific Legal Institute challenged Judge Sabraw’s decision both in the Ninth Circuit (where the case remains pending) and in a petition to the Supreme Court, asking the Justices to rule without waiting for the Circuit Court. They argued that the Justices should step in now because federal District judges have reached conflicting rulings on whether lawsuits against the law are premature, or can go forward.
The Supreme Court almost never hears cases before lower courts have a chance to act.
Original AP story follows…