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Liberty asks justices to review health care ruling

Monday - 10/10/2011, 12:40pm  ET

Associated Press

RICHMOND, Va. - Liberty University appealed the dismissal of its lawsuit challenging the Obama administration's health care law to the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday.

Mathew Staver, an attorney for the university and two individuals who sued, said a petition asking the justices to review the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling was electronically transmitted early Monday morning. He said he expects the court to decide whether to consider the case before it takes its December break.

Liberty, the private Christian university founded by the Rev. Jerry Falwell, claims the key provision of President Barack Obama's signature domestic initiative _ a requirement that individuals buy health insurance or pay a penalty starting in 2014 _ is unconstitutional.

The Richmond-based appeals court ruled Sept. 8 that the penalty is a tax, and a tax cannot be challenged until it is paid and the taxpayer seeks a refund. Liberty claims that every other court that has considered the issue has found that the penalty is not a tax, and that the mandate is the real issue.

"Petitioners object to the statutory mandate in general, not the assessment of the fine against them," Liberty said in its petition.

Staver said the law "is an unprecedented expansion of the federal government's power to micromanage personal choices."

The Justice Department did not immediately respond to an email request for comment Monday, which was a federal holiday.

Liberty's health care case is the fourth appealed to the Supreme Court. Most notably, the Obama administration has appealed a ruling by the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals striking down the insurance mandate as unconstitutional. Staver said a review of that ruling is automatic because it invalidated a federal statute, so the only question is which other cases the justices will accept.

On the same day the Richmond-based appeals court rejected Liberty's challenge, it also dismissed Virginia's lawsuit. The justices ruled that a new state law that says Virginians cannot be forced to buy insurance does not give the state standing to challenge the federal law. Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli has appealed that ruling.

The justices also have been asked to review the Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Court of Appeals' ruling upholding the law.

The cases are among more than 30 lawsuits that have been filed challenging the health care overhaul.

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