Friday October 15, 2010

Judge Rules ObamaCare Lawsuit May Proceed

By Peter J. Smith

PENSACOLA, Florida, October 15, 2010 ( – A federal judge in Florida has ruled that the lawsuit led by 20 U.S. states against the new national health care reform may proceed to trial, over the objections of the federal government.

U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson for the Northern District of Florida rejected the U.S. Justice Department’s request to throw out the case, stating that “plaintiffs have at least stated a plausible claim that the line has been crossed” between what Congress can and cannot do under the U.S. Constitution.

Attorney General Bill McCollum filed the lawsuit with the district court in Pensacola on behalf of Florida and the attorney generals of 19 other states: Alabama, Arizona, Alaska, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, and Washington. The suit is also joined by the National Federation of Independent Business and two individuals.

Vinson said he was allowing the challenge to the Affordable Care Act, called “ObamaCare” by its critics, on two major counts: the individual mandate to carry health insurance and the required expansion of the state-run Medicaid program.

“The power that the individual mandate seeks to harness is simply without prior precedent,” Vinson observed in his ruling.

“The individual mandate applies across the board. People have no choice and there is no way to avoid it. Those who fall under the individual mandate either comply with it, or they are penalized. It is not based on an activity that they make the choice to undertake. Rather, it is based solely on citizenship and on being alive,” Vinson stated.

The judge, however, made clear that he was not yet ruling on the merits of the case and that just because a law was “unprecedented” did not mean it was “unconstitutional.”

He also took the Justice Department to task for what he called an “‘Alice-in-Wonderland’ tack” by arguing that Congress actually meant the fine for violating the individual mandate to be a tax, not a penalty, as the legislation indicates.

Vinson ruled that the fine functioned as a penalty, not a tax, because it lacks “statutorily-identified revenue-generating purpose.”

Opponents believe that arguing the fine is a penalty instead of a tax will make it easier to prove the law’s unconstitutionality.

Vinson reminded both sides that he was charged only with determining the Affordable Care Act’s constitutional status, and that his duty required him to uphold a bad law if constitutional, or to strike down a good law, if unconstitutional.

The case has a trial date scheduled for December 16.

All pending lawsuits against the national health care law are expected to end up at the U.S. Supreme Court.

The ruling can be read here:

See related coverage by

U.S. Judge Delivers Setback to ObamaCare Foes

| Send Letter to Editor