Supreme Court Rejects Speedy Review Of Health law

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The Supreme Court has rejected a request from Virginia's attorney general to speed up a review of President Obama's health care law.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

Congress has been known to fast-track legislation when it's politically expedient, but not the Supreme Court, which prides itself on being a deliberative body.

Today, the high court turned down Virginia's request to speed up a challenge to the new health care law.

NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg reports that the decision says nothing about how the court may eventually rule.

NINA TOTENBERG: Virginia, and its Attorney General, Ken Cuccinelli, asked the court to bypass the appeals courts and immediately review the constitutionality of the health care law. But today, the justices, without comment, refused to do that.

The court's unsigned order indicates that all justices participated in the decision. That should put an end to continued speculation by some conservatives that Justice Elena Kagan might have to recuse herself from the case.

Kagan said at her confirmation hearings that she did not participate in discussions about the law when she was solicitor general. But that didn't stop continued suggestions that she'd have to recuse.

Some liberal groups have also suggested that Justice Clarence Thomas should recuse himself because of his wife's outspoken political opposition to the law. But legal ethics experts have said Thomas has no obligation to recuse unless his wife is involved in the particular case before the Court.

For now, though, the health care challenge goes back to the lower courts. In an interview last February, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg explained why the Supreme Court doesn't like to bypass the usual process.

Justice RUTH BADER GINSBURG (United States Supreme Court): We do so much better when we have the views of other federal judges, who are certainly no less qualified than we are, then we have the range of views before us.

(Soundbite of archived audio)

TOTENBERG: To date, only individual federal district court judges have ruled on the health care law; three have upheld it and two invalidated it. Three federal appeals courts are scheduled to hear arguments on those cases this spring. In all likelihood, one or more of these will arrive at the Supreme Court late this year with a decision expected by summer of 2012, just months before the election.

Nina Totenberg, NPR News, Washington.

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