A federal appeals court will hear arguments in San Francisco today in two high-profile cases concerning health care for veterans and the city of San Francisco's ban on tobacco sales in pharmacies.
First, a three-judge panel will hear arguments on an appeal by two veterans' groups of a trial judge's rejection of their bid for an injunction requiring the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to provide better mental health care and an overhaul in the claims process.
Veterans for Common Sense and Veterans United for Truth claim that care and suicide prevention for veterans suffering stress from combat in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq is woefully inadequate.
The trial judge, U.S. District Judge Samuel Conti, ruled in San Francisco last year that the remedies sought by the groups "are beyond the power of this court."
Gordon Erspamer, a lawyer for the veterans, said this week, "The appeal presents the issue of whether the federal courts are powerless to act when a huge federal bureaucracy fails to fulfill its legal duty to our returning heroes."
In the second case, the same panel will consider Philip Morris USA Inc.'s appeal of a ruling in which U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken of Oakland upheld the city of San Francisco's ban on tobacco sales in pharmacies.
The Virginia-based company claims the measure violates its right of free speech by curtailing its advertising and displays in drugstores.
San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera, whose office will defend the law, said on Tuesday, "Consumers ought to have a reasonable expectation that drugstores will serve their health needs, not enable their deadliest habits."
The panel hearing the two cases is made up of Chief 9th Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski and Circuit Judges Procter Hug and Stephen Reinhardt.
They are expected to take the cases under submission after hearing 30 minutes of arguments in each case and to issue written rulings at a later date.