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Supreme Court declines to rein in Congress' regulatory powers

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court may not be so anxious to rein in Congress' broad power to pass regulatory laws under the Constitution's commerce clause, the key point of dispute in the pending court battles over President Barack Obama's health insurance law.

By a 7-2 vote, the justices turned down a constitutional challenge to a 2002 law that makes it a federal crime for a felon to have body armor or a bulletproof vest.

The majority's decision, rendered without comment, could make it more difficult for those challenging health insurance reform to win court orders overturning parts of the new law.

"The federal power claimed is the authority to regulate anything — from the possession of French fries to the local theft of a Hershey's Kiss," argued lawyers for Cedrick Alderman, a Seattle man who appealed the body-armor law.

Attorneys general from more than 20 states have joined lawsuits arguing that the health care law goes beyond Congress' power because it requires Americans by 2014 to have some health insurance or pay a tax penalty.

Two district judges have rejected such challenges, and one in Virginia has ruled the law unconstitutional. The issue is likely to reach the Supreme Court in a year or two.

Alderman's appeal concerned only whether Congress had the power to enact a law regulating the possession of a product — in this instance, body armor.

The appeal argued that the possession of a bulletproof vest had nothing to do with interstate commerce and, therefore, was beyond Congress' power.

Lower courts had upheld the law. The Supreme Court considered the appeal but rejected it Monday in Alderman vs. United States.

Florida surgeon's award stays: The Supreme Court will not overturn a Florida surgeon's $5 million slander award after a hospital executive said he would not send his dog to the doctor for surgery, the Associated Press reported. The high court on Monday refused to hear an appeal from Lawnwood Medical Center Inc., which argued that the award given to Dr. Samuel Sadow, who practices in Port St. Lucie, was excessive. Sadow sued for slander, and a jury awarded him $5 million in punitive damages. A Florida appeals court upheld the award.

Supreme Court declines to rein in Congress' regulatory powers 01/11/11 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 1:54pm]
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