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Virginia judge strikes down Obama's health care law

Monday, December 13, 2010 | 11:42 a.m. CST

RICHMOND, Va. — A federal judge declared the Obama administration's health care law unconstitutional Monday, siding with Virginia's attorney general in a dispute that both sides agree will ultimately be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson is the first federal judge to strike down the law, which has been upheld by two other federal judges in Virginia and Michigan. Several other lawsuits have been dismissed and others are pending, including one filed by 20 other states in Florida.

Virginia Republican Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli filed a separate lawsuit in defense of a new state law that prohibits the government from forcing state residents to buy health insurance. The key issue was his claim that the federal law's requirement that citizens buy health insurance or pay a penalty is unconstitutional.

"This won't be the final round, as this will ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court, but today is a critical milestone in the protection of the Constitution," Cuccinelli said in a statement after the ruling.

Hudson, a Republican appointed by President George W. Bush, sounded sympathetic to the state's case when he heard oral arguments in October, and the White House expected to lose this round.

Administration officials told reporters last week that a negative ruling would have virtually no impact on the law's implementation, noting that its two major provisions — the coverage mandate and the creation of new insurance markets — don't take effect until 2014.

The central issue in Virginia's lawsuit was whether the federal government has the power under the constitution to impose the insurance requirement. The Justice Department said the mandate is a proper exercise of the government's authority under the Commerce Clause.

Cuccinelli argued that while the government can regulate economic activity that substantially affects interstate commerce, the decision not to buy insurance amounts to economic inactivity that is beyond the government's reach.


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Comments

Paul Allaire December 13, 2010 | 12:47 p.m.

While there needs to be a better program for health care, the act of requiring an individual to purchase insurance from one of a host of corrupt companies combines the worst features of capitalism and socialism and is completely unacceptable.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith December 13, 2010 | 2:24 p.m.

This could have repercussions beyond "Obamacare." Exactly what, if anything, can the federal government compel its citizens to buy, and from whom?

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams December 13, 2010 | 5:53 p.m.

There is a good chance this is going to be an extraordinary case for the SCOTUS.

Why extraordinary?

Because it just might define the limits of the Commerce Clause of the US Constitution.

(Report Comment)
Derrick Fogle December 13, 2010 | 6:01 p.m.

"Hudson, a Republican appointed by President George W. Bush, sounded sympathetic to the state's case when he heard oral arguments in October, and the White House expected to lose this round."

Ah... nothing like the sweet sound of politicized justice. Judge shopping, anyone? What with the economy being so bad and all, I've heard there are some real deals out there these days!

Disclaimer: I agree with the ruling.

The h4x354x0r

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams December 13, 2010 | 6:13 p.m.

Derrick:

Was this judge shopping, or is this the federal judge with jurisdiction over this region and nobody had a choice? Kinda like we in Columbia have only certain judicial pathways we can go at the federal level.

If not, I wonder if the other two cases that went the other way were "judge shopping"?

Or is judge shopping uni-directional?

I don't know the answer to any of these questions....except the last one.

(I agree with the judgment, also)

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Bearfield December 14, 2010 | 12:10 p.m.

Michael, the article answers your first two questions.

(Report Comment)
Christopher Foote December 14, 2010 | 1:11 p.m.

I think the mandate is bad policy (the public option and/or medicare buy-in would have been much better), however I think Hudson's ruling is inconsistent with how the commerce clause has been interpreted in the past. Notably, the mandate sets up a mechanism by which individuals pay for health care. It is a rare individual that will not consume health care in their lifetime. By not purchasing insurance, one is simply differing payment until a later date, at a substantial mark up in price! They will still participate in the health care marketplace. Perhaps if health care facilities turned away those that could not pay (a practice I do not endorse) than the activity/inactivity distinction would hold more weight.
In addition, the supreme court has in the past ruled that the government can fine individuals for not participating in a marketplace.
See Wickard v. Filburn for precedence:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wickard_v._...
The farmer in question, Roscoe Filburn, was fined for essentially not purchasing wheat on the open market (he was growing his own). Now perhaps, you have a problem with Wickard_v._Filburn (I find it objectionable), that does not however mean it is unconstitutional. Since it was adjudicated by the highest court in the land, it is by definition constitutional. I seem to remember a time when judicial activism was deemed a horrible evil. It is a bit ironic for the "constitutional" crowd to endorse the judicial activist strategy to overturn legislation that passed with a SUPER majority, i.e. 60 votes in the Senate. Congress is the venue to overturn laws you don't like, not the courts, especially when there is a Supreme Court precedence.

(Report Comment)

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