A federal appellate court in Richmond, Va., on Thursday threw two cases challenging the constitutionality of the 2010 health-care law, ruling for varying reasons that the plaintiffs did not have legal standing to sue.

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A federal appellate court in Richmond, Va., on Thursday threw out two cases challenging the constitutionality of the 2010 health-care law, ruling for varying reasons that the plaintiffs did not have legal standing to sue.

In the process, however, two of the three judges on the panel volunteered that they would have upheld the law, the Affordable Care Act, if they had been able to rule on the substance of the cases.

The rulings, by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, vacated lower-court decisions, one for and one against the law. That leaves the U.S. Supreme Court to consider two earlier, contradictory decisions by other appellate courts.

In late June, a three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati ruled 2-1 in favor of the law’s requirement that, starting in 2014, most Americans must obtain health insurance. In August, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta ruled against that provision, known as the individual mandate, also by 2-1.

Other challenges continue to progress through the appellate process, with the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia scheduled to hear a case this month.

The Supreme Court has yet to signal whether it will accept one or more of the cases, or when.

The 4th Circuit panel was considered by lawyers to be the least likely to strike down the health-care act. All three randomly selected judges on the panel were appointed by Democratic presidents, including two by President Obama.

The 4th Circuit confronted two opposing lower-court decisions. One, in a case filed by Virginia’s attorney general, Kenneth Cuccinelli II, had overturned the law’s insurance requirement. The other, in a case filed by Liberty University, a Christian school in Lynchburg, Va., upheld the same provision, considered central to the workings of the act.

In a unanimous opinion written by Judge Diana Gribbon Motz, the 4th Circuit panel concluded Cuccinelli did not have standing to sue because Virginia’s case relied on a state law intended to undermine the federal act. Unlike the Liberty case, which included individual plaintiffs who might someday be directly affected by the mandate, Cuccinelli structured his complaint as a conflict between state and federal law.

The Virginia Health Care Freedom Act, enacted one day after Obama signed the Affordable Care Act, declares that no Virginia resident “shall be required to obtain or maintain a policy of individual insurance coverage.” Other states where leaders oppose the law have passed similar measures.

Motz wrote that states cannot grant themselves standing to challenge federal laws simply by passing legislation that declares those laws invalid.

Otherwise, she said, Virginia could enact a statute declaring, for example, that no resident shall be required to pay Social Security taxes. “If we were to adopt Virginia’s standing theory,” Motz wrote, “each state could become a roving constitutional watchdog of sorts.”

Cuccinelli said Thursday that he would appeal to the Supreme Court.

In the Liberty case, Motz wrote for a 2-1 majority in rejecting the appeal on different grounds. In that case, she wrote that Liberty could not seek to strike down the individual mandate before it took effect because doing so would, in effect, usurp the government’s right to collect a tax.

The dismissal of the appeal on the tax question blocked the panel from fully considering the constitutionality of the individual mandate. But Motz’s two colleagues, both nominated by Obama, offered their opinions. Judge James Wynn Jr. wrote that he would have upheld the act based on Congress’ authority to enact the insurance requirement under its taxing powers. Judge Andre Davis wrote that he would have upheld the mandate under Congress’ power to regulate interstate commerce.