An amicus brief co-authored by Massachusetts Bar Association
Health Law Section Council member Lorianne Sainsbury-Wong was
mentioned in the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark health care decision
on the Affordable Care Act. The constitutionality of the act was
upheld in a 5-4 decision on June 28, ruling that individuals who
fail to obtain insurance must pay a tax penalty beginning in
"There were a lot of happy tears," Sainsbury-Wong said as she
recalled the reaction at Health Law Advocates in Boston, where she
is litigation director. Sainsbury-Wong spoke about the brief and
the meaning of the ACA decision live on Fox 25 News the night of
the June 28 decision. "Our efforts were validated in a very
significant way. For me it was a humbling experience . . . It was
clear the justices were paying attention to what was happening in
Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in her minority opinion
quoted the brief on page 73 of the decision.
"[O]ut-of-state residents continue to seek and receive millions
of dollars in uncompensated care in Massachusetts hospitals,
limiting the state's efforts to improve its health care system
through the elimination of uncompensated care," reads the brief,
which argued that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional. (Brief
for Health Care for All, Inc., et al. as Amici Curiae in No.
11-398, p. 4)
Ginsburg used the quote in a section of her opinion that states
Congressional intervention is necessary because otherwise states
that have undertaken their own health care reform are at an
"I knew early on the perspective I wanted to explore," said
Northeastern University School of Law Associate Dean Wendy E.
Parmet, a co-author of the brief and a board member at Health Law
"Don't think about health care reform as something states can do
on their own. The decisions people make in other states, whether to
have or not to have insurance - affect the success of health care
reform in Massachusetts," Parmet said. "The state can only go so
far because of the interstate effect."
The statistics in the brief, and much of the research needed to
make its arguments, was provided by a team of four second-year
students at Boston University School of Law as part of their class,
Constitutional Litigation and Health Care.
"I don't think there's many law students that can go into an
interview with a Supreme Court citation in the most important case
of the decade," said one of the class's professors, Kevin
Outterson, an associate professor at both Boston University's
School of Law and School of Public Health.
Outterson said to soften the blow of the students giving up
their winter break to work on the brief, he promised them a party
if any of the briefs were quoted or cited. "I still owe them that,"
The students who worked on the brief were Paul Payer, Braden
Miller and Katie O'Neill. Eleven additional students in the class
worked on three other briefs submitted by the class.
Filed before the Supreme Court on Jan. 13, the brief was written
on behalf of several Massachusetts organizations involved in
Massachusetts' 2006 health reform legislation. Among the groups
were Health Care For All, Community Catalyst, and the Massachusetts
Hospital Association, all based in Boston. It was one of more than
120 briefs submitted in the case.