It is a long standing tradition in American law that one who is harmed by an economic regulation she believes is unconstitutional should have the opportunity to make her case in court. Soon, the Fourth Circuit will have the opportunity to determine the extent to which that tradition remains in place when it hears arguments in Colon Health Centers of America, LLC, et al. v. Hazel, et al.
The analysis from the appellate attorney team at Kassouni Law…
At issue in the case, is whether medical facilities should have the opportunity to challenge a Virginia law that requires medical facilities prove a public “need” before providing certain kinds of additional medical services. As part of this public need test, facilities must essentially show that providing these additional services will not result in competition with other existing providers in the area. Several medical facilities brought a court challenge to the law arguing that this “public need” test bestows an unconstitutional benefit on existing providers in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. Similar laws have been struck down on those grounds in other states.
Yet, before the facilities had an opportunity to prove their case in court, or even collect any evidence, the District Judge dismissed their case, holding that the government’s promise that the law had a legitimate purpose was sufficient to defeat any constitutional challenge. The facilities have now appealed solely on the question of whether or not they should be able to collect evidence and argue their case in court.
If it seems strange to you that a person would have to hire an appellate attorney and go all the way to the Court of Appeals to defend their right to challenge the government, you’re not alone. Since the late 1930’s constitutional challenges to economic regulations have faced an uphill battle. In order to be successful, the person challenging the regulation must disprove every possible legitimate justification for the law. As lopsided as this standard is, however, it still provides some measure of oversight for the legislature and provides injured parties an opportunity to have their day in court.
Yet, in recent years, that opportunity has not been guaranteed. More and more often, government attorneys are asking judges to dismiss challenges to government regulations prior to any trial or collection of evidence, based solely on assertions that the government has a good reason for the law. Because a person challenging an economic regulation must present evidence defeating every possible justification for the challenged regulation, shutting down the process prior to the collection of evidence would effectively shield such regulations from any meaningful review.
This should not be the case. Those who are harmed by arbitrary and overzealous regulations deserve their day in court. If you would like legal analysis on a similar legal matter, contact the appellate attorney team at Kassouni Law by calling (877) 770-7379.