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President Barack Obama's health care overhaul will get its first oral arguments in federal appeals court Tuesday when a three-judge panel hears two Virginia cases — one that upheld the law and another that struck down its key provision.

Nine lawsuits challenging the law are pending on appeal, but the Virginia cases before the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals are the first to reach the oral argument stage. Thirteen cases have been dismissed with no appeal filed, and nine are pending in district courts, according to federal officials.

In the most prominent of the two Virginia cases, U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson struck down the health care law's key provision: a requirement that individuals buy health insurance or pay a penalty starting in 2014. Thirty-one lawsuits challenging the law have been filed nationally, and Hudson — a 2002 appointee of President George W. Bush — was the first judge to strike down any of its provisions. Hudson left the rest of the law intact.

"An individual's personal decision to purchase — or decline to purchase — health insurance from a private provider is beyond the historical reach of the Commerce Clause," Hudson wrote in the Dec. 13 opinion, which the U.S. Justice Department promptly appealed.

U.S. District Judge Norman K. Moon in Lynchburg reached the opposite conclusion in a lawsuit filed by Liberty University, the conservative Christian school founded by the Rev. Jerry Falwell. Two weeks before Hudson's ruling, the 1997 appointee of President Bill Clinton ruled that the mandate is a proper exercise of congressional authority under the Commerce Clause.




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