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Supreme Court Won't Weigh In On Health Care Law Just Yet

"The Supreme Court has rejected a call from Virginia's attorney general to depart from its usual practice and put review of the [Obama] health care law on a fast track," The Associated Press reports.

The wire service adds that "only rarely, in wartime or a constitutional crisis, does the court step into a legal fight before the issues are aired in appellate courts. Hearings already are scheduled in May and June in three appeals courts. The case still could reach the high court in time for a decision by early summer 2012."

According to SCOTUSblog, "there were no dissents noted, and there was no comment."

Update at 3:50 p.m. ET:NPR's Nina Totenberg reports that "Monday's decision says nothing about how the court may eventually rule on the law's validity."

Nina also writes that:

"In an interview last February, [ other excerpts here] Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg explained why the Supreme Court prefers not to bypass the usual process.

" 'We do so much better when we have the views of other federal judges, who are certainly no less qualified than we are,' she said. 'Then we have the range of views before us, and we can make a better informed decision.'

"To date, only individual federal district court judges have ruled on the health care law. Three have upheld it, two invalidated it, and more than a dozen have thrown out challenges without ruling on the merits. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va. is scheduled to hear arguments in the case on May 10, and two other appeals courts are to hear similar challenges in June.

"In all likelihood, one or more of these cases will arrive at the US Supreme Court late this year, with a decision expected by summer of 2012, just months before the presidential election."

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Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.