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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. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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