“Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction,” the acting United States solicitor general explained to the Supreme Court in a 1990 argument. “The presumption is that they are without jurisdiction, and the plaintiff must affirmatively prove that he has standing to invoke the power of the court.”
That’s a quote from Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts – given that Roberts and his fellow Justices will be ruling on the suit that seeks to disallow subsidies for policies obtained via the Federal health exchange, it has special meaning.
The suit, funded by the Koch-backed Competitive Enterprise Institute, is ostensibly being brought by four plaintiffs who, in theory, have to prove they were harmed in order to have “standing”. In a nutshell, “standing” means that if you aren’t harmed by an action, then you can’t complain about it. I may not like the speed limit in Hawaii, but since I never go there I have no standing to sue.
As several news outlets have reported, three plaintiffs don’t have much to complain about; this from the Wall Street Journal:
Legal experts say the fact that Mr. King could avoid paying the penalty for lacking insurance by enrolling in VA coverage undermines his legal right to bring the case, known as “standing.” The wife of a second plaintiff has described her husband on social media as being a Vietnam veteran. The government previously questioned the standing of a third plaintiff on the grounds that her income may exempt her from paying the penalty for lacking insurance, but a lower court didn’t address the issue.
The fourth plaintiff, Brenda Levy, is Medicare-eligible in June of this year – about the time the Court would rule on the case. As I am NOT a legal scholar or lawyer, and don’t even watch legal shows on TV, I’m not qualified to say whether Medicare eligibility changes “standing” (Medicare recipients can’t be forced to carry insurance under PPACA as they are covered by Medicare). If it doesn’t, then the case will go forward as even one plaintiff with standing is enough.
That said, this Court seems – to my uneducated eye – to use “standing” to avoid ruling on contentious issues.
What does this mean for you?
Hard to say, as handicapping this Court is a fool’s game.