Health Law Ruling

In a victory for the Obama Administration, a three judge panel of the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the constitutionality of the Obama health reform law.

This ruling - which was on a separate case from challenges in the 4th Circuit (Virginia) and the 11th Circuit (Florida and 24 others states) - affirmed a lower court decision that said the law passed constitutional muster.

As in those other cases, a central issue was the individual mandate that requires people to buy health insurance.

"We find that the minimum coverage provision is a valid exercise of legislative power by Congress," read the opinion of the three judge panel.

The three judges though were not in full agreement, delivering three distinct opinions - though in the end, they all voted to uphold the Obama health reform law.

As for the charge that it is unconstitutional to force people to buy health insurance, the judges said that "inactivity" does affect commerce.

"(T)here is no constitutional impediment to enacting legislation that could be characterized as regulating inactivity," the judges wrote.

This is not the final word on this case, as we still await rulings from the Fourth and Eleventh Circuits - and most legal experts do expect this matter to the reach the U.S. Supreme Court.

Still, these are important opinions - and victories - at the appellate level.

And chalk up the first one for the White House.

Maybe more importantly, one of the judges in this case, Jeffrey Sutton, was an appointee of President George W. Bush.  And not just any judicial nominee.

Sutton was part of a group of Circuit Court nominees by President Bush who were blocked by Democrats in the Senate.  The dispute went on for two years before Sutton and other judges were finally confirmed in close votes.

"A short history of decisions in this area shows that the Court has given Congress wide berth in regulating commerce," Sutton wrote in his own opinion, as all three judges saw the case differently.

"In my opinion, the government has the better of the arguments," wrote Sutton, in a line that may have some GOP Senators wondering why they spent so much capital to get him on the bench in the first place.

"Time assuredly will bring to light the policy strengths and weaknesses of using the individual mandate as part of this national legislation, allowing the peoples’ political representatives, rather than their judges, to have the primary say over its utility," Sutton wrote.

It's a reminder that one should never try to predict how judges will rule on court cases.

You can read today's opinion at - Sutton's explanation is in part 2, from pages 27-53.