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In Narrow Ruling, Judge Deems “The Ultimate Conservative Plan” For Health Care Unconstitutional
Charles Monaco on December 16, 2010 - 12:27pm
This week, U.S. District Court Judge Henry Hudson in Virginia became the first judge in any courtroom to issue a ruling declaring part of the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional. Despite being preceded by two rulings in similar lawsuits that fully rejected the plaintiffs’ arguments and declared the entire law constitutional, and despite the dismissal of least a dozen other similar challenges out of a total of twenty-four nationwide, Judge Hudson’s decision (which was described by Professor Timothy Jost as “defective”) set off a media firestorm as opponents of the health care law happily fanned the flames.
But the Virginia decision was neither unexpected nor as momentous as the media coverage may have suggested. As the White House noted in its official response the day of the ruling, opponents of Social Security, the Civil Rights Act, and the Voting Rights Act all took to court challenges very soon after the passage of each of those pieces of landmark legislation. It was little surprise that opponents seeking to overturn the health care law would go down a similar path. It was even less of a surprise that a jurist like Judge Hudson would issue a ruling favorable to opponents of the health care law, after refusing to either recuse himself from the case or divest from his financial interest in a partisan campaign consulting firm that counts the plaintiff, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, as a client.
What was a surprise, according to many analysts, was the narrow scope of the decision. The language of the ruling appears to specifically apply only to Section 1501 of the Affordable Care Act, which mandates that Americans who do not buy health insurance eventually pay a tax penalty. The Wall Street Journal reported that “several legal experts on both sides of the case said they interpret the ruling as applying to the individual mandate and nothing else” - a result that was not inevitable, given the lack of a so-called “severability clause” in the text of the bill itself that would have explicitly protected the rest of the law if only one part of it were ruled unconstitutional. One reporter described the feeling among the health care advocate community in reaction to the language of the decision as “one of bitterness, but not dread.”
Full Resources from thisArticleWashington Post - Status of legal challenges to Obama health care overhaul
The Plum Line - Legal expert: Ruling on health reform is "very defective" and "will be overturned"
Constitutional Accountability Center - VA Judge Echoes the “Constitution According to the Tea Party” in Health Care Ruling
The White House Blog - On Today’s Ruling in Virginia
Stateline - In Vermont, single-payer health care in a single state
This article is part of PSN's email newsletter, The Stateside Dispatch.
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