Posts Tagged ‘Judge Roger Vinson’

Healthcare Reform – 3; Opponents – 2

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

The score on legal challenges to the Affordable Care and Patient Protection Act is now 3 – 2 – with the Obama administration and healthcare reform in the lead. Nor surprisingly, the three judges who have voted to uphold the law are Democratic appointees, while those who struck down the law are Republican appointees.

The law survived a challenge in federal court in Washington, D.C., the third win in a series of lawsuits attempting to overturn the legislation. U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler threw out a lawsuit brought in June by five individuals who claimed the requirement that people obtain minimum insurance coverage starting in 2014 is unconstitutional.  Judge Kessler said Congress was acting “within the bounds” of its constitutional Commerce Clause power when it imposed the insurance requirement.  “The individual decision to forgo health insurance, when considered in the aggregate, leads to substantially higher insurance premiums for those other individuals who do obtain coverage,” Kessler wrote.  “Thus, the aggregate effect on interstate commerce of the decisions of individuals to forgo insurance is very substantial.”

A right-wing group called the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) is appealing Judge Kessler’s ruling.  The group maintains that it is unconstitutional for the law to require that each person purchase insurance; they perceive it as a move towards adopting socialized medicine.  According to the appeal, the group wants to spare Americans “all of the horrors you have heard coming out of Canada (and) Europe, where it is a bureaucrat who decides — not your doctor — what care you have.”  According to Edward White, an attorney with the ACLJ, “That does not mean that Congress cannot fix the healthcare problem we have in this country.  It’s just the way they’re going about it now by requiring people to act and buy a product and using its Commerce Clause power to an extent that is beyond what Congress has ever done in the 200 some odd years of this country.”

Judge Kessler could not disagree more strongly: “To put it less analytically, and less charitably, those who choose — and Plaintiffs have made such a deliberate choice — not to purchase health insurance will benefit greatly when they become ill, as they surely will, from the free healthcare which must be provided by emergency rooms and hospitals to the sick and dying who show up on their doorstep,” she said.  “In short, those who choose not to purchase health insurance will ultimately get a ‘free ride’ on the backs of those Americans who have made responsible choices to provide for the illness we all must face at some point in our lives.”

Nearly one year after President Obama signed the healthcare reform bill, more than half of the states have challenged the legislation in the courts. In comments filed in a Florida federal court, representatives of the 26 states that successfully challenged the healthcare reform law asked the judge to halt the healthcare law’s implementation, according to The Hill. The comments are a response to the Obama administration’s request that U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson explain his January 31 ruling that the healthcare reform law is unconstitutional.  Of five federal court rulings on the reform law so far, Judge Vinson’s is the only one that strikes down the entire law.

Additionally, Florida and Alaska have declared the reform law effectively dead unless an appellate court reverses the decision.  Court comments by the 26 states – which were backed by the National Federation of Independent Business — said the Obama administration should have requested a stay, pending appeal, rather than request a clarification.  “If the Government was not prepared to comply with the Court’s judgment, the proper and respectful course would have been to seek an immediate stay, not an untimely and unorthodox motion to clarify,” the plaintiffs wrote.

Judge Rules That Healthcare Law Must Be Implemented as it Heads to the Supreme Court

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

The same Florida federal judge who declared President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform law unconstitutional ruled that states must continue implementing it as the case goes through the courts. U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson was responding to a request from administration attorneys who sought to ensure that states obey the law until their challenge to it is resolved.  Two other federal judges have upheld the law; one in Virginia has ruled against it.  The law’s ultimate fate is expected to be decided by the Supreme Court. In all, three federal judges have ruled that Congress possesses the authority under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution to enact the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA).  The mandate requires that all Americans acquire healthcare coverage.  Two other federal judges have voted that the healthcare reform law is unconstitutional.

“It would be extremely disruptive and cause significant uncertainty” to halt implementation, Vinson wrote.  He added that if the federal government does not appeal within seven days, the states can consider the law invalid.  The Justice Department welcomed the stay and plans to file an appeal within the required time frame.  David Rivkin, a lawyer representing the 26 states challenging the law, said the decision “gets us exactly what we always wanted, which is an expeditious appellate process.”

“The battle lines have been drawn, the relevant case law marshaled and the legal arguments refined,” Vinson wrote.  “It is very important to everyone in this country that this case move forward.”  In some ways, the ruling was a victory for the Obama administration because it ended confusion over whether states should continue working to implement the law. “We appreciate the court’s recognition of the enormous disruption that would have resulted if implementation of the Affordable Care Act was abruptly halted,” Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler said in a statement.  “We strongly disagree with the district court’s underlying ruling in this case and continue to believe — as three federal courts have found — that this law is constitutional.”

“It almost seems to be that he’s (Vinson) telling the 11th Circuit what they’re supposed to do,” said Tim Jost, a professor at Washington & Lee University School of Law.  “I’m not sure they’re going to take very kindly to that.”  The case was brought by 26 states and the National Federation of Independent Business NFIB), which hoped for an injunction clearly barring implementation of the reform law.  “The government’s attempts to stymie the judicial process are simply prolonging the uncertainty surrounding the law and do a disservice to the states, small-business owners and individuals who are seeking resolution,” said Karen Harned, executive director of the NFIB Small Business Legal Center.

In her “Right Turn” column in the Washington Post, blogger Jennifer Rubin writes that “When U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson issued his ruling finding ObamaCare unconstitutional, liberals seemed to develop a reading comprehension problem.  He plainly stated that the law is unconstitutional, but defenders of ObamaCare seemed not to grasp that the judge meant the government was supposed to follow that edict.  Can we imagine the howls that would have gone up had the Bush administration acted with such brazen dishonesty and contempt for a court?”

According to Rubin, “In sum, the administration’s feigned lack of understanding of the court’s earlier ruling, a position egged on by the liberal cheerleaders for ObamaCare, has only served to speed up the next level of review of ObamaCare’s constitutionality.  Moreover, for an administration promising to ‘depoliticize’ the administration of justice and to be faithful defenders of the rule of law, this episode shows the chasm between administration rhetoric and behavior.”

Healthcare Law Repeal DOA in Senate; Likely Headed to the Supreme Court

Monday, February 14th, 2011

The Republican House of Representatives’ attempt to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was DOA — as expected — in the Democratic-controlled Senate.  Voting along strict party lines, all 50 Democratic Senators who were present and one Independent gave the repeal a thumbs down.  All 47 Republican Senators voted in favor of repeal.  Two Senators – one a Democrat and the other an Independent – were not present to vote.

Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) delivered a scornful speech during the heated debate, saying the Republicans are offering “one more hollow, symbolic pander-to-the-masses amendment.  If you want to rewrite the bill, keep your promise, Republican Party, that if you want to repeal, then let’s go replace.  I want to hear their ideas for replacement.  I challenge them right here, right now, today on this amendment.”  Not surprisingly, Republican Senate leaders disagree with Senator Mikulski’s stance. “We think it is just the beginning,” Senate Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (KR-KY) said Wednesday after the Senate voted to reject an amendment he offered to repeal the law.  “This issue is still ahead of us and we will be going back at it in a variety of ways,” McConnell noted.  “We’ll be looking at it in every different way to revisit it.”

The Republicans can claim a small victory as the Senate voted to repeal the 1099 requirement that was a highly unpopular inclusion in the healthcare reform law. Many perceived this as a tax on healthcare consumers and small businesses because it required anyone performing a transaction equaling $600 or more to file a 1099 form with the IRS.  The cost of the requirement had the potential to add up to 40 percent for some small businesses, which could have resulted in closures or layoffs.  The amendment passed the Senate by an 81 – 19 vote and has President Barack Obama’s support. Opponents of the amendment, such as Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), said that Congress, not the White House, should wield the budget-cutting ax.

The Senate’s actions come on the heels of a decision by Florida Federal District Court Judge Roger Vinson that it is unconstitutional for Congress to pass a healthcare law that requires Americans to obtain insurance coverage.  Judge Vinson’s decision created a 2 – 2 tie in lower courts. According to Judge Vinson’s decision, “The act, like a defectively designed watch, needs to be redesigned and reconstructed by the watchmaker.”

Judge Vinson’s decision increases the likelihood that the Affordable Care Act will end up in front of a Republican-dominated Supreme Court. “A year ago, it was a long shot,” said Randy Barnett, a law professor at Georgetown University.  “Now, it’s seen as a 5 to 4 case.  And nobody’s sure which way the 5 – 4 will come down.”  The stakes are enormous for the defining achievement of the Obama presidency.  The decision also has the potential to define the limits of federal power for generations.  “This case could define federalism for the next 100 years,” said Jonathan Turley, a George Washington University constitutional law professor.  “This is a very difficult case for the Supreme Court as an institution.  You have a slight majority of the states opposing it.  You have a national law that’s affecting hundreds of billions of dollars and services.  This is the type of case the justices do not relish.”

Additionally, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has asked the Supreme Court to fast track his state’s challenge to the healthcare law, saying he thinks the legal dispute has become so important that the nation’s highest court should take it up immediately. “We want to eliminate the uncertainty in both our governmental budgets and in the private sector,” he said.  “We want to eliminate at least the uncertainty associated with health care.” The Obama administration opposed the move, saying the case should follow the regular process.  This would put off until 2012 a Supreme Court ruling on the law that aims to provide more than 30 million uninsured Americans with medical coverage and cracks down on unpopular insurance industry practices.