Supreme Court punts on fast-track review of healthcare law

The Supreme Court has not acted on a request to expedite a review of legal challenges to the healthcare reform law. 

The high court on Monday released the list of cases it has decided to take up or decline, and Virginia's healthcare reform challenge was not included. 

Court watchers had expected the high court to announce whether it would expedite Virginia's lawsuit against the law, but the justices aren't saying either way — for now. The Supreme Court issues a regular list of orders on each Monday it is in session, but the justices can also issue "miscellaneous" orders in individual cases at any time.

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R), who is challenging the law's individual mandate, has petitioned the court to skip the appeals process and take up the case as soon as possible.

"Given the importance of the issues at stake to the States and to the economy as a whole, this Court should grant certiorari to resolve a matter of imperative public importance," Cuccinelli argued in his Feb. 8 motion.

Monday's order list could indicate a number of possibilities, according to court watchers.

"This could mean that a justice is writing a dissent from the denial; or that a justice is writing a statement respecting denial; or that a potential fourth justice to grant is unsure and needs more time; or even that the Court is unsure whether to deny or dismiss the petition (for lack of jurisdiction)," writes Brad Joondeph of the ACA Litigation Blog, which tracks healthcare reform challenges. "We just don't know. And it is not obvious when we will find out, though the next most likely date is Monday, the next day scheduled for the release of an order list."

Two federal judges have ruled the law's individual mandate is unconstitutional, while several others have upheld it. 

The Obama administration has argued that appeals courts should have their say — arguments have been scheduled in no fewer than four appeals courts over the next five months — while critics say the differing opinions to date are creating legal uncertainty and should be resolved as quickly as possible by the Supreme Court.