December 13, 2010

“Federal Judge to Rule on Health Law’s Constitutionality” [UPDATED: VA WINS]


A Virginia federal judge is expected to rule Monday on whether the Obama administration’s health law violates the Constitution, opening a new stage in the administration’s defense of its biggest legislative achievement.

The ruling by District Judge Henry E. Hudson is perhaps the most significant so far among a slew of state-based legal challenges to the law, which also faces attack by newly resurgent Republicans in Congress. More than 20 federal lawsuits have been filed against the health overhaul since President Barack Obama signed it in March.

While the cases differ somewhat, they largely rest on the argument that Congress lacks constitutional authority to require most Americans to carry health insurance or pay a fee. The Obama administration counters that three clauses of the Constitution gave Congress the power to put the requirement, known as the individual mandate, in the law as part of regulating how people pay for health care.

The Virginia challenge is led by that state’s attorney general, Republican Ken Cuccinelli. Separately, U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson in Pensacola, Fla., on Thursday will hear arguments in a challenge brought by officials in 20 states. He could offer the clearest indication yet of how he will rule.

Supporters of the law are bracing for defeats in Virginia and in Florida. Judges Hudson and Vinson have both shown sympathy to the plaintiffs’ arguments and are GOP appointees.

Two other federal judges, in separate lawsuits in Michigan and Virginia, have already ruled in the administration’s favor on the individual-mandate question. Those cases, along with the other federal cases challenging the law, have a narrower base of plaintiffs than the suits brought in Florida and before Judge Hudson in Virginia.

Even if judges rule the individual mandate unconstitutional, it isn’t likely to stop the law from being carried out for now. Plaintiffs in the Virginia and Florida cases have asked the judges for an injunction to halt the law’s implementation nationwide. But people close to the plaintiffs concede the federal courts are likely to leave the law in place while the challenges go on. Both sides expect the matter to end up at the Supreme Court.

Funding is underway. And the GOP doesn’t look able to stop it.

Business as usual.

And honestly: Is there anyone left these days who believes that the courts are something other than ideological extensions of the political parties — or that the ideological makeup of the Supreme Court at the time this is decided won’t in fact determine the “lawfulness” of the mandate?

Turns out “bracketing” intent and embracing formalism while fetishizing precedent has consequences. Who knew?

update: “Obama’s health care law loses in court”:

A federal judge has struck down the Obama administration’s requirement that all Americans to buy health insurance.

The ruling could gut the historic heath care bill that Obama signed into law this year, but it will undoubtedly be appealed — probably all the way to the Supreme Court.

I’ll post more on the decision as it becomes available.

(thanks to Pablo)

Summary here.

Posted by Jeff G. @ 9:28am

Comments (35)

  1. Well, this is lovely, but not surprising. They do not know how to stop spending money, because they continue to be rewarded for doing it. Friedman was right: we don’t need to change the people, we need to change the system. Once they are consistently punished for reckless spending, they’ll stop.

    The courts are a disaster, and I don’t see it getting any better on the track we’re currently traversing.

  2. Off topic but what the hell is it with Ohioans balling on TV? Do you spike the water with estrogen?

    Voinobitch cries cause he’s ascared by John Bolton’s nefarious-looking moustache, now Boehner is crying because, I don’t know, he just feels sad.

    Apparently this sort of thing has become politically expedient. But I’ll be damned before I ever supported a goddamn nancyboy who cries on TV when talking about anything other than how he had to put his dog down or how his wife died.

  3. it’s my party
    and i’ll cry if i want to
    cry if i want to
    cry if i want to..

  4. And the ruling is in: Virginia wins. On to SCOTUS.

  5. Good for Virginia. In Georgia our lame-duck AG, a Dem, declined to pursue a challenge.

  6. As did Chris Christie.

  7. Christie is an old-school Democrat. He might even be in favor of single-payer health insurance, I don’t know.

  8. This is just the appetizer. This is the entree. McGehee, Georgia’s in on that one. Maybe that was the easier way to go as opposed to filing suit solo?

  9. The severability issue. No word yet on that question that I can find. But time will tell there.

  10. Georgia and Florida are in the same appeals-court circuit, so if Florida’s challenge gets through District the appeal’s outcome would affect us too. New Jersey’s circuit only includes Pennsylvania and its suburb, Delaware. Are either of those states challenging ObamaCare in court?

  11. Pennsylvania is one of the 20 in the Florida suit.

  12. This is the entree. McGehee, Georgia’s in on that one.

    I think our lame-duck goober-nut, a Republican, got us into that one.

  13. Pennsylvania is one of the 20 in the Florida suit.

    Then Christie need not necessarily have filed, I would think. That many states in one case, it would be hard to limit an appellate ruling in their favor to only the circuit where the trial court was.

  14. Re severability… Hudson ruled that it is severable. Don’t get that one…

  15. Ruling

    For all you lawporn readers out there.

  16. Hudson ruled that it is severable.

    Hmmm. Well, he’s not the one who has to figure out how to make the rest of the program work without the individual mandate. From what I’ve read, it won’t.

  17. for comic? relief
    i got a florida suit.
    i wear it in court
    i wear it well

  18. . . . how to make the rest of the program work without the individual mandate. From what I’ve read, it won’t.

    If we take Sebelius’ contention at its word McGehee, it looks like she agrees with you, it won’t work.

    p. 16 Hudson’s decision (my emphasis): The Secretary maintains that because Congress has rationally concluded “that the minimum coverage provision is necessary to make the other regulations in the Act effective,” it is an appropriate exercise of the Necessary and Proper Clause.

    But you’re also right that it isn’t Hudson’s job to make it work.

  19. Any idea what time the WH presser with President Clinton is scheduled to answer questions on this ruling?

  20. I think it’s held up until they can clear a few minutes for Obama to introduce him.

  21. It’ll be awhile then, cause last I heard he was meeting with the Lakers when the ruling went down. Best President evah!

    Maybe Hope and Change was supposed to originally be “Hoops and Change” and it got autocorrected and they went WTH?

  22. The severability issue. No word yet on that question that I can find. But time will tell there.

    Per Jeff’s summary link, we have severability. Only the mandate is struck down.

  23. Pingback: “Federal Judge to Rule on Health Law's Constitutionality” [UPDATED … » Lawyer Health Talk

  24. So we’ll have insurance for everyone, and nobody has to pay for themselves? Awesome! That’s what we wanted all along!

  25. Hallelujah! All I want for the next eleventy Christmases is for SCOTUS to upholld this:

    Hudson rejected the government’s argument that it has the power under the Constitution to require individuals to buy health insurance, a provision that was set to take effect in 2014.

    “Of course, the same reasoning could apply to transportation, housing or nutritional decisions,” Hudson wrote. “This broad definition of the economic activity subject to congressional regulation lacks logical limitation” and is unsupported by previous legal cases around the Commerce Clause of the Constitution.

    And if they throw in “Oh, half of those cases are bullshit too.” I can die happy.

  26. Obama, Haley go head to head

    Gov.-elect Nikki Haley [SC] challenged President Obama over his landmark health insurance law Thursday in a candid, personal exchange in front of Cabinet members and newly elected governors from across the country but away from reporters.

    In an exchange recounted by Haley and confirmed by White House aides, Obama rejected Haley’s request to repeal the health care bill – but said he’d consider letting states opt out of its mandates if they ran exchange programs, banned insurance firms from denying coverage of pre-existing conditions and enabled people to pool together for better rates.

    [H]e’d consider…

    How magnanimous of our ruler. The “Good Man.”®

  27. In other health and national security related issues, shooting from the hip,

    First lady Michelle Obama plans to warn in remarks Monday that the nation is seeing “a groundswell of support” for curbing childhood obesity, and she is unveiling new ammunition from current and retired military leaders.

    “Military leaders … tell us that when more than one in four young people are unqualified for military service because of their weight,” the first lady says in the prepared remarks, “childhood obesity isn’t just a public health threat, it’s not just an economic threat, it’s a national security threat as well.”

  28. haleys comet..
    can’t wait til it lands!

  29. Richard Epstein on the Virginia v Sebelius decision, h/t IP:

    The key successful move for Virginia was that it found a way to sidestep the well known 1942 decision of the Supreme Court in Wickard v. Filburn, which held in effect that the power to regulate commerce among the several states extended to decisions of farmers to feed their own grain to their own cows. Wickard does not pass the laugh test if the issue is whether it bears any fidelity to the original constitutional design. It was put into place for the rather ignoble purpose of making sure that the federally sponsored cartel arrangements for agriculture could be properly administered.

    At this point, no District Court judge dare turn his back on the ignoble and unprincipled decision in Wickard. But Virginia did not ask for radical therapy. It rather insisted that “all” Wickard stands for is the proposition that if a farmer decides to grow wheat, he cannot feed it to his own cows if a law of Congress says otherwise. It does not say that the farmer must grow wheat in order that the federal government will have something to regulate.

  30. sdferr —

    The sidestepping of Wickard was drawn up by Landmark Legal, Mark Levin’s foundation. He discussed Wickard in detail on his show this evening and fleshed out the argument. He also tore into Necessary and Proper and the tax fallback arguments.

    But of course, he’s just a shrieking divisive non-thinking conservative who is very unhelpful. Or so some have argued.

  31. I’ve been watching a lot of Deadwood lately. I find myself gripped by a hanging mood.

  32. grow,grow,grow ur boat
    gentlly down the stream..
    merrily merrily,wait
    neil young-look out mama,theres a white boat comin up the river
    [G chord}
    with a big red beacon
    and a flag..
    and a man,on the rail..
    i think u better call john’
    ’cause it don’t look like there here, to deliver the mail..

  33. Levin chimes in via Landmark:

    “Today Judge Hudson ruled against the Obama Administration on three essential points involving Obamacare: 1. Individuals who do not actively participate in commerce — that is, who do not voluntarily purchase health insurance — cannot be said to be participating in commerce under the United State Constitution’s Commerce Clause, and there is no Supreme Court precedent providing otherwise; 2. The Necessary and Proper Clause of the Constitution cannot be used as a backdoor means to enforce a statute that is not otherwise constitutional under Congress’s enumerated powers; and 3. There is a difference between a tax and a penalty, there is much Supreme Court precedent in this regard, and the penalty provision in Obamacare is not a tax but a penalty and, therefore, is unconstitutional for it is applied to individuals who choose not to purchase health care.

    “Judge Hudson’s ruling against the Obama Administration and for the Commonwealth of Virginia gives hope that the rule of law and the Constitution itself still have meaning. Landmark Legal Foundation has filed several amicus briefs in this case, at the request of the Commonwealth, and will continue to provide support in the likely event the Commonwealth is required to defend this decision in the Fourth Circuit and U.S. Supreme Court. Landmark would also like to congratulate Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and the excellent lawyers in his office for their superb legal skills.

    “It is a great day for the rule of law and the citizenry. Judge Hudson’s ruling is ironclad, and General Cuccinelli deserves an enormous amount of credit for taking on this matter. We look forward to continuing to work with him.”

    Yup. I’m with Ken Cuccinelli. Let’s get right to SCOTUS and clear this mess up. Hell, let’s just find out what Anthony Kennedy thinks and be done with it.

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