Court date: In Philadelphia, a dry run of the Supreme Court healthcare challenge

    As the Supreme Court prepares to hear challenges to the healthcare law in Washington D.C. next week, a full audience in Philadelphia will watch a moot court version of the trial tonight at the federal courthouse.

    Todd Brewster, director of the Peter Jennings Project for Journalists and the Constitution, organized the mock case in conjunction with the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.

    He wanted to focus awareness on the constitutional issues at the core of the challenge to the Affordable Care Act.

    “Most of the general public look upon the law through the lens of policy, is it a good idea or a bad idea,” Brewster said. “I think it’s really important that we understand that the judicial branch of government considers these issues quite differently, they look upon it as ‘Is it consistent with the Constitution?'”

    A former acting solicitor general will argue in favor of the healthcare law, and a D.C.-area lawyer will represent the state challengers arguing against it.

    The nine-judge panel, made up mostly of federal appeals court judges, will deliberate in front of the audience.

    “That just gives a terrific insight into both the process by which the Supreme Court will make this decision and the kinds of things they will be considering,” Brewster said.

    Charles Rothfeld, a Washington, D.C.- based attorney, will argue it is unconstitutional for the government to demand that individuals buy health insurance.

    He said that aspect of the law is largely unprecedented, and will provide a lot flexibility in building an argument.

    “Most cases you’re very constrained by what the statue says or what the court has said about related issues in other cases,” Rothfeld said. “Here, it is so fundamental and there really is so little like this case out there, that it really invites going back to what the framers of the constitution were thinking.”

    Opponents to the healthcare law rely on the Constitution’s commerce clause to challenge the individual mandate.

    The clause gives the federal government the authority to regulate multi-state economic activity.

    Opponents to the law say not buying health insurance is inactivity rather than activity, so the federal government must stay out.

    The individual mandate is one of four core issues the Supreme Court will take up next week in a nearly unprescedented six hours of hearings.

    A decision is expected in the summer.

    The moot court will stream live on the National Constitution Center’s website starting at 6 p.m.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal