Dep’t of Health and Human Servs. v. Florida

Brief Details

William H. Mellor
Chairman and Founding General Counsel
Dana Berliner
Senior Vice President and Litigation Director
Date Filed
Original Court
US Supreme Court
Current Court
US Supreme Court
In the defining constitutional debate of our time—whether the individual mandate of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) is constitutional—only one doctrine will lead the justices to fulfill their mandate to act as a check on congressional power: judicial engagement. Several lower courts that have heard challenges to the individual mandate have opined that a properly “restrained’ federal judiciary should leave to Congress the task of deciding how to regulate the health care system. But, as the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals noted in striking down the mandate, “the Constitution requires judicial engagement, not judicial abdication.” As the Institute for Justice stated in its amicus brief filed in the PPACA case, “Reflexively deferring to Congress’ enactment of the individual mandate is an abdication of the judicial duty owed to the American people to enforce and support the Constitution. If courts cannot find and articulate meaningful limits on the federal government’s enumerated powers, the entire constitutional architecture collapses. At a minimum, courts should be willing to draw a line between the power to regulate commerce and the power to compel it. Hundreds of years of historical understandings of the centrality of mutual assent, this Court’s own constitutional and statutory decisions relating to the commerce power, and the very nature of our federal structure all support the conclusion that, by enacting the individual mandate, Congress has pushed its commerce power one critical step too far.”