theodore M I R A L D I mpa ... editor, publisher, writer. katherine molé mfa ... art director

Monday, December 13, 2010

Health Care Ruled Unconstitutional in Va Court. NY Times 12/13/10.........

Published: December 13, 2010

A federal district judge in Virginia ruled on Monday that the keystone provision in the Obama health care law is unconstitutional, becoming the first court in the country to invalidate any part of the sprawling act and ensuring that appellate courts will receive contradictory opinions from below.

Document

Judge Hudson’s Ruling.......

Judge Henry E. Hudson, who was appointed to the bench by President George W. Bush, declined the plaintiff’s request to freeze implementation of the law pending appeal, meaning that there should be no immediate effect on the ongoing rollout of the law. But the ruling is likely to create confusion among the public and further destabilize political support for legislation that is under fierce attack from Republicans in Congress and in many statehouses.



In a 42-page opinion issued in Richmond, Va., Judge Hudson wrote that the law’s central requirement that most Americans obtain health insurance exceeds the regulatory authority granted to Congress under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. The insurance mandate is central to the law’s mission of covering more than 30 million uninsured because insurers argue that only by requiring healthy people to have policies can they afford to treat those with expensive chronic conditions.



The judge wrote that his survey of case law “yielded no reported decisions from any federal appellate courts extending the Commerce Clause or General Welfare Clause to encompass regulation of a person’s decision not to purchase a product, not withstanding its effect on interstate commerce or role in a global regulatory scheme.”



Judge Hudson is the third district court judge to reach a determination on the merits in one of the two dozen lawsuits filed against the health care law. The others — in Detroit and Lynchburg, Va. — have upheld the law. Lawyers on both sides said the appellate process could last another two years before the Supreme Court settles the dispute.



The opinion by Judge Hudson, who has a long history in Republican politics in northern Virginia, continued a partisan pattern in the health care cases. Thus far, judges appointed by Republican presidents have ruled consistently against the Obama administration while Democratic appointees have found for it.



That has reinforced the notion — fueled by the White House — that the lawsuits are as much a political assault as a constitutional one. The Richmond case was filed by Virginia’s attorney general, Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, a Republican, and all but one of the 20 attorneys general and governors who filed a similar case in Pensacola, Fla., are Republicans. Other lawsuits have been filed by conservative law firms and interest groups.



The two cases previously decided by district courts are already before the midlevel courts of appeal, with the Detroit case in the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati and the Lynchburg case in the Fourth Circuit in Richmond.



The Justice Department, which is defending the statute, is also considering whether to appeal Judge Hudson’s ruling to the Fourth Circuit, which hears cases from Virginia and four other states. That would leave that court to consider opposite rulings handed down over two weeks in courthouses situated only 116 miles apart.



The Richmond ruling is the latest in a string of recent setbacks for the Obama administration, following the Democrats’ loss of the House in the midterm elections and last week’s intraparty mutiny over Mr. Obama’s agreement to extend the Bush era tax cuts.



But administration officials, who have been bracing for an adverse ruling, emphasized that Judge Hudson’s opinion was just one among several. They said they maintained high confidence that the law eventually would be upheld, and expressed frustration that negative rulings were attracting more attention than affirming ones.



The officials stressed that the judge’s decision to not enjoin the law would defer any actual impact for years. They noted that the insurance requirement does not even take effect until 2014, when the Supreme Court presumably will have ruled.



The administration has said that if that provision eventually falls, related insurance reforms would necessarily collapse with it, most notably the ban on insurer exclusions of applicants with pre-existing health conditions. But officials said other innovations, including a vast expansion of Medicaid eligibility and the sale of subsidized insurance policies through state-based exchanges, would withstand even a Supreme Court ruling against the insurance mandate.



“It’s our strongly held view that those provisions survive” in judicial decisions invalidating the insurance requirement, one administration official said, speaking anonymously because he was not authorized to discuss the case publicly.



However, even state officials who support the new law said Monday’s ruling would reinforce calls by many Republican governors and lawmakers to slow down its implementation.

Read full story in NY Times 12/13/10

1 2 Next Page »
Single Page







.

No comments:

Post a Comment