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Florida judge rules health-care law unconstitutional

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A federal judge in Florida has found that Congress has exceeded its authority in passing sweeping health-care reform in 2010 by including the individual mandate that people must purchase health insurance by 2014 or pay a penalty. Indiana had joined with 25 other states, two individuals, and the National Federation of Independent Business to challenge the law.

Indiana joined the lawsuit in May 2010 that sought to declare “The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” unconstitutional. U.S. District Senior Judge Roger Vinson of the Northern District of Florida, Pensacola Division, denied in October 2010 the U.S. Department of Justice’s motion to dismiss the two surviving claims. Those claims challenged the individual mandate requiring people to purchase health care by 2014 and the altering and expansion of Medicaid.

Senior Judge Vinson issued a 78-page ruling Monday in State of Florida, by and through Attorney General Pam Bondi, et al. v. United States Department of Health and Human Services, et al., No. 3:10-CV-91, devoting most of the opinion to the individual mandate issue. He granted the government’s motion for summary judgment on the Medicaid claim, ruling there’s no support for the state plaintiffs’ coercion argument in existing case law. The states argued they will face serious financial and practical problems because of alterations to the Medicaid program.

But because the judge ruled in favor of the plaintiffs on the individual mandate issue, he struck down the entire law, ruling that the individual mandate can’t be severed from the Act.

“I must conclude that the individual mandate and the remaining provisions are all inextricably bound together in purpose and must stand or fall as a single unit,” he wrote.

Senior Judge Vinson reiterated in his opinion that his case isn’t about whether the law is wise or unwise legislation, but is about the constitutional role of the federal government.

“This has been a difficult decision to reach, and I am aware that it will have indeterminable implications. At a time when there is virtually unanimous agreement that health care reform is needed in this country, it is hard to invalidate and strike down a statute titled ‘The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,’” he wrote. “In closing, I will simply observe, once again, that my conclusion in this case is based on an application of the Commerce Clause law as it exists pursuant to the Supreme Court’s current interpretation and definition. Only the Supreme Court (or a Constitutional amendment) can expand that.”

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller issued a statement late Monday in response to the ruling, saying he expects the federal government to appeal. In December, a federal District Court in Virginia had ruled in favor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, which brought a challenge to the health-care law. That court found portions of the law to be unconstitutional, including that the individual mandate violates the Commerce Clause.

“It was unprecedented for the federal government to claim it can require individuals to purchase a commercial health insurance product or pay a penalty. The sovereign states had an obligation to bring this respectful legal challenge to test whether this claim was constitutional. It is essential that the question be asked of and answered by the United States Supreme Court. Today’s ruling in Florida finding that a portion of the law is unconstitutional under the Commerce Clause is historic, and an important check on the scope of the federal government’s power,” Zoeller said.

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  1. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  3. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  4. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  5. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

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