While conservatives are celebrating today’s ruling against ObamaCare’s individual mandate, should the Obama administration appeal today’s decision to the Fourth Circuit, as widely assumed, it will face a much more favorable venue thanks to recent appointments by President Obama that have tilted the balance of the once-conservative court.
During the Bush era, the Fourth Circuit developed a reputation as the most conservative in the nation, in large part because it sided with the administration on a number of key national security decisions, particularly involving terorist detainees.
But the balance has shifted dramatically since then, and currently Democratic appointees outnumber Republicans by an 8-to-5 margin, with two vacancies remaining.
At the start of the Obama administration, Republicans had the slight edge over Democrats, 6-to-5. In July of last year, chief judge and Republican appointee Karen Williams had to step down due to early onset of Alzheimer’s. Since then, Obama has been able to get three of his nominees to the court confirmed — Judges Andre Davis, Barbara Keenan and James Wynn.
The appeals court is already on track to hear an appeal of another anti-ObamaCare lawsuit, brought by Liberty University, which was dismissed by a Clinton appointee, Judge Norman Moon, earlier this month.
No matter what happens with either case at the appeals court level, however, the issue will likely have to be resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court.