Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Non-Event That is Making News ... The Supreme Court Doesn't Rule on Health Care Reform

It's the biggest benefits news of the day, and all because nothing happened. Attentive readers, as well as all other people who have not been hiding under a very large rock will recall that there are a whole bunch (I think 16 is the number) of lawsuits out there trying to have all or a part of health care reform (PPACA) declared unconstitutional. Some have gone the way of the Obama Administration. Some have not. This is to be expected. Anyone who has read the court decisions to date on this issue can see what is happening. District Court judges who tend to be viewed as liberal have found PPACA to be constitutional. District Court judges who tend to be viewed as conservative have found at least parts of PPACA to be unconstitutional.

Predictable, huh?

So, what happened now? Opponents of the law would like to have the Supreme Court rule on this once and for all. If the Supremes rule against the law, then states can stop the expensive process of implementation. Proponents of the law would be thrilled if the Supreme Court were to rule quickly in their favor, but obviously not so happy if the ruling went against them.

I'm showing my ignorance here as I don't know all the rules of procedure for the courts. I do know that in the ordinary course of things, a case that is ruled upon at the District Court level, if appealed, then goes on to the level of the Circuit Court of Appeals. The next level of appeal after that is the Supreme Court.

Apparently, there is a procedure referred to as fast-tracking whereby the Appeals Court gets circumvented and the case goes directly from the District Court to the Supreme Court. In this particular case, the Supreme Court had been petitioned to hear it immediately so that states would know whether to continue the PPACA implementation process, or not, as the case may be. And, for something with consequences this far-reaching, of course the Supreme Court would decide to fast-track this case, make a quick ruling, and let us move on. There was no doubt about it, was there?

Hold on. The Supreme Court essentially answers to nobody. We don't elect them. They don't have term limits. And, in their collective humble (or not) opinion, this case just doesn't merit fast-tracking.

The Supreme Court is not founded on convenience. It is not founded on the expenditure or saving of a few billion dollars. It exists to rule on matters of law, and historically, only those issues that are of extreme importance, AND where undue harm or duress could come as a result of their not fast-tracking a case have been fast-tracked.

So, your top headline for today is that nothing happened. But, now we know that nothing has happened with regard to the PPACA litigation. Presumably, this case will make it to the Supreme Court docket for the session beginning this fall. This means that we are likely to see a ruling next spring, or more likely, summer. That is right around the time of the presidential nomination conventions.

Oh, the speeches we will hear.

In the meantime, we can all go back and hide under our rocks. This case sits still for the moment.

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