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AG Eric Holder's Letter to Fifth Circuit on Court's Authority to Rule on Obamacare

AG Eric Holder's Letter to Fifth Circuit on Court's Authority to Rule on Obamacare

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Published by FindLaw
During oral arguments in a Fifth Circuit case challenging the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, the court asked the Department of Justice about its views on the authority of courts to review Acts of Congress. The request came after President Obama stated his belief that the Supreme Court should uphold the Affordable Care Act. In his response, Attorney General Eric Holder states that the power of courts to review the constitutionality of legislation is so firmly established that it is "beyond dispute." Holder also reminds the circuit justices of Supreme Court precedent holding that Acts of Congress are "'presumptively constitutional'", and states that President Obama's remarks were "fully consistent" with those principles.
During oral arguments in a Fifth Circuit case challenging the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, the court asked the Department of Justice about its views on the authority of courts to review Acts of Congress. The request came after President Obama stated his belief that the Supreme Court should uphold the Affordable Care Act. In his response, Attorney General Eric Holder states that the power of courts to review the constitutionality of legislation is so firmly established that it is "beyond dispute." Holder also reminds the circuit justices of Supreme Court precedent holding that Acts of Congress are "'presumptively constitutional'", and states that President Obama's remarks were "fully consistent" with those principles.

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Published by: FindLaw on Apr 05, 2012
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JudgeJerryE.Smith JudgeEmilio M.Garza JudgeLes
li
eH.Southwick c/oM
r.
Lyle W.Cayce
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of
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April5,2
01
2Clerk,UnitedStatesCourt
of
Appeals for theFifthCircuit 600S.MaestriPlace
ewOr
leans,LA 70130 RE:
Ph
vs
icianHospitals
o[Am
erica
v.
Sebelius.
No.1
1-
40631Dear Judge Smith,JudgeGarza,and Judge Southwick:
Th
isCour
t's
letter
of
April3, 2012requestedaresponsetoquestionsraised
at
oralargumentinthiscase,
Ph
ys
ician Hospitals
of
America
v.
Sebelius,
No.11-4063
1.
Fr
om theelectronicrecording
of
theargument,IunderstandtheCourtto ha
ve
requestedtheviews
of
theDepar1me
nt
of Justiceregarding
judicia
lrevi
ew
of
theconstitutionality
of
Acts
of
Congress. The Courtindicatedth
at
itsinquirywaspromptedbyrecentstatements
of
the
Pr
esident. Thelongstanding,
hi
storicalposition
of
theUnitedStatesregarding
judi
cialrevi
ew
of
theconstitutiona
li
ty
offeder
a
ll
egisla
ti
onhasnotchanged andwasaccuratelystatedbycounself
or
th
e governme
nt
at oralargumentinthiscase af
ew
daysago.TheDepartmenthasnotinthis li
ti
gation,norinanyother litigation
of
whichIam
awa
re,
eve
raskedthisoranyotherCo
ut1
toreconsiderorlimitlong-estab
li
shed prece
de
nt concerning
jud
icialrevi
ew
of
the constitutionality
of
federallegisl
at
ion.
The
gove
nm1
ent
's
bri
ef
citesjurisdictionalbarstotheinsta
nt
suitand urgesthat plainti
ff
s'
constitutionalcla
im
sareinsubstantial.
See
AppelleeBr.o
ft
he United States at17-38. At nopoint has
th
e governmentsuggestedthat
th
e Courtwo
ul
dlackauth
or
itytorevi
ew
plainti
ff
s'constitutionalcla
im
s
if
the C
our1
wereto concludethat
juri
sdictionexists.Thecase hasbeenfullybriefedandargued, and itisreadyfordisposition.The ques
ti
onposed bythe Courtregardingjudicialrevi
ew
doesnotconcernanyargumentmadeinthe government
's
brief orat oralargument in this case,andthislettersho
ul
dnotberegardedasasuppleme
nt
albrief. 1. Thepower
of
the courtstorevi
ew
theconstitutionality
of
l
eg
islationisbeyond disp
ut
e.
See generally,e.g.,FreeEnte1priseFund
v.
Public
Co.
AccountingOversightB
d.
,
130S.C
t.
3138 (2010);
FCC
v.
BeachCom
mu
nication
s,
Inc.,
508U.S.307(1993).
Th
eSupreme Courtresolvedthisquestion in
Marbwy
v.
Madison,
1Cranch137,177-78 (1803). In thatcase,
Case: 11-40631 Document: 00511812922 Page: 1 Date Filed: 04/05/2012
 
theCourthe
ld
that"[i]t is emphaticallythe
pr
ovince andduty
of
thejudicialdepartmenttosay what the lawis."
Marbury,
1Cranchat177. TheSupreme Courthasfm1herexplainedthat thispowermayonly beexercised in appropriate cases."
If
a disputeisnota propercase
or
controversy,the courts haveno business deciding it,
or
expoundingthe lawinthe course
of
doingso."
Daim/erChJys/er
C01p.
v.
Cuno,
547U.S.332,341 (2006);
see, e.g.,Weinbergerv.Sa/fi,
422U.S. 749,
763-766
(1975)(addressing astatutorybar to
ju
ri
sdiction).
In
the casebeforethisCourt-
Physician Hospitals
of
America
v.
Sebe/ius,
o. 11-40631
-we
haveargued thatthisCourtlacksjurisdiction to hearthe case.
See
Appe
ll
eeBr.
of
the UnitedStates at15-38. Where aplaintiffproperly
in
vok
es
the
jurisd
iction
of
a court and
pr
esentsa
ju
sticiablechallenge,thereisno disputethatcourtsproperlyreviewtheconstituti
ona
lity
of
Acts
of
Congress. 2.Inconsideringsuchchallenges,Acts
of
Congress are"presumptivelyconstitutional
,"
TurnerBroadcastingSystem,Inc.
v.
FCC,
507 U.S.1301, 1301 (1993),and the Supreme Com1 has stressedthat the presumption
of
constitutiona
li
tyaccordedtoActs
of
Congressis
"s
trong."
Unit
ed
States
v.
FiveGamblingDevices LabeledinPart
..
Mills
,"
and
BearingSeri
al
Nos.593-
221,346
U.S.441,
449
(1953);
see,e.g.,Gon
za
lesv.Raich,
545U.S. 1,28(2005)(notingthat the"congressional
judgment
"atissue was
"e
ntitledto astrongpresumption
of
validity").
The
SupremeCourthasexplained:"Thisisnota mere polite
gestur
e.
It
isa deference due todeliberate
judgment
by
co
nstitutionalmajorities
of
the two
Hou
ses
of
Co
ngressthatanActis withintheir delegated
poweror
isnecessaryand propertoexecuti
on
of
thatpo
we
r."
FiveGamblingD
ev
icesLabeledinPart
..
Mills
,"
and
BearingSerialN
os.
593-22i,
346 U.S.at 449.In
li
ght
of
thepresumption
of
co
nstitutionality,itfalls tothepartyseeking to overturn a federal lawtosh
ow
thatitis clearlyunconstitutional.
See,e.g.,Salazar
v.
Buono,
1
30
S.Ct.1803,1820 (2010)("Respectfora coordinate branch
of
Gove
nm1
entforbidsstrikingdown an Act
of
Co
ngress exceptuponaclearshowing
of
uncon
st
itutiona
li
ty.");
Beach Communications,In
c.
,
508U.S.
at314-15.
3.Whiledulyrecognizingthe courts'authorityto engagein
judicia
lrevi
ew
,theExecutiveBranch hasoftenurgedcourtsto respectthelegislative
jud
gments
of
Co
ngress.
See,e.
g.
,Nature
's
Daily.
v.
Glickman,
1999
WL
1581396,at*6;
StateUniversity
of
NewYork
v.
Anderson,
1999
WL
680463,at*6;
Rojas
v.
Fitch,
1998
WL
457203,at*7;
Un
it
ed
Foodand
Commercial WorkersUnion Local7
5i
v.
Bro·wnGroup,
1995 WL938594,
at
*6.TheSupr
eme
Courthas often acknowledged the
app
ropriateness
of
relianceon thepoliticalbranche
s'
policychoi
ces
and
jud
gments.
See,e.g.,Ayotte
v.
Planned Parenthood
of
No
rthernNewEng.,
546 U.S.320,329 (2006) (explainingthat,in grantingrelief,thecourts '·try not to null
if
ymore
of
alegislature
's
workthanisnecessar
y"
becausetheyrecognizeth
at'"
[a]rulingof unconstitutionalityfrustrat
es
theintent
of
theelectedrepresentatives
of
thepeople
'"
(alteration inthe o
ri
ginal) (quoting
Regan
v.
Time,inc.,
468U.S.641,652 (1984) (plurality opinion)));
TurnerBroadcastingSystem,inc.,
512U.S.at665-66.
Th
e"Courtaccords'great
-2-
Case: 11-40631 Document: 00511812922 Page: 2 Date Filed: 04/05/2012

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