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California v. Texas (U.S. Supreme Court, June 17, 2021): In a brief, 7-2 majority Opinion, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected all constitutional and other claims brought against the continued enforcement and implementation of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) individual mandate, dismissing multiple state and individual plaintiffs’ claims for lack of standing. Justice Breyer, writing for the majority, concludes “the plaintiffs . . . failed to show a concrete, particularized injury fairly traceable to enforcement of the individual mandate provision of the ACA.” Since Congress zeroed out the penalty for the individual mandate through the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, individuals cannot assert a specific injury because the mandate can no longer be enforced. As for Texas and 17 other states’ alleged injuries the Court viewed their claims as similarly specious. States “have failed to show that the challenged minimum essential coverage provision, without any prospect of penalty, will harm them by leading more individuals to enroll in these programs.” In a biting, dissenting opinion, Justices Alito and Gorsuch criticize the Court for brokering an “improbable rescue” of the ACA (as per its prior Opinions) through a “fundamental distortion” and “flat-out misstatements” of long-standing jurisprudence on standing. In essence, as Justice Alito argues, the injuries alleged by the states related to ACA implementation are directly “traceable,” or at least sufficiently tied to, the unlawful mandate provisions. Determining the lawfulness of the ACA’s individual mandate is the only way to redress these injuries. While the dissent deems the mandate unconstitutional, along with the rest of the ACA, the majority disagrees, and the case is dismissed.  

View all cases under “Source & Scope of Public Health Legal Powers.”