Monday, January 31, 2011

Patriot Judge Reads the Founders, Finds ObamaCare "Unconstitutional"

As suggested by PoliticalJunkie Mom, I've just read U.S. District Court Judge Roger Vinson's ruling on ObamaCare and, I must say, this Florida judge took ObamaCare out behind the woodshed and gave it a thorough and very well reasoned whacking.

Judge Vinson started his analysis with an examination of the intent of the Founders in drafting the Constitution of the United States, which began as an effort to prevent hostilities between the new states by improving the trade of goods among them. In their search for an interstate trade agreement, the Founders eventually ended up with an entire Constitution that contained the Commerce Clause, which was the very point of law at issue in this court dispute. The argument over the constitutionality of The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act hinged on whether the powers granted by the Commerce Clause for Congress to regulate interstate commerce could extend so far as to empower Congress to require U.S. citizens to purchase a product, health insurance, from a private company.

The defendants of ObamaCare, that is, Kathleen Sebelius and the Department of Health and Human Services, Timothy Geitner and the Department of the Treasury, and Hilda Solis and the Department of Labor, argued that this individual mandate to purchase health care is "necessary" to the operation of ObamaCare, to which the judge responded, in part:
. . . the defendants'are essentially admitting that the Act will have serious negative consequences, e.g., encouraging people to forego health insurance until medical services are needed, increasing premiums and costs for everyone, and thereby bankrupting the health insurance industry -- unless the individual mandate is imposed. Thus, rather than being used to implement or facilitate enforcement of the Act's insurance industry reforms the individual mandate is actually being used as the means to avoid the adverse consequences of the Act itself. Such an application of the Necessary and Proper Clause would have the perverse effect of enabling Congress to pass ill-conceived, or economically disruptive statues, secure in the knowledge that the more dysfunctional the results of the statute are, the more essential or "necessary" the statutory fix would be. Under such a rational, the more harm the statute does, the more power Congress could assume for itself  . . . . (p. 59-60)
Do your brain a favor and see what a session with logic, reason, and U.S. history can produce. This ruling, which is written in clear and understandable language, is chock full of gems.

Update: Law Professor William Jacobson has pointed out that Judge Vinson "expects the federal government to obey the declaration that the law is unenforceable in its entirety."
Judge Vinson found that there was no need for an injunction, since the declaratory judgment that the entire law was invalid was sufficient.  In effect, there is nothing left to enjoin, since no part of the law survived.  By contrast, in the ruling in Virginia last year invalidating the mandate, the Judge severed the mandate from the rest of the law (but denied an injunction preventing the rest of the law from taking effect). 
Here is the key language from the Order showing that Judge Vinson expects the federal government to obey the declaration that the law is unenforceable in its entirety:
"...there is a long-standing presumption “that officials of the Executive Branch will adhere to the law as declared by the court. As a result, the declaratory judgment is the functional equivalent of an injunction.” See Comm. on Judiciary of U.S. House of Representatives v. Miers, 542 F.3d 909, 911 (D.C. Cir. 2008); accord Sanchez-Espinoza v. Reagan, 770 F.2d 202, 208 n.8 (D.C. Cir. 1985) (“declaratory judgment is, in a context such as this where federal officers are defendants, the practical equivalent of specific relief such as an injunction . . . since it must be presumed that federal officers will adhere to the law as declared by the court”) (Scalia, J.) (emphasis added).

There is no reason to conclude that this presumption should not apply here. Thus, the award of declaratory relief is adequate and separate injunctive relief is not necessary."
In this sense, this decision is far more sweeping than the Virginia case, and presents a greater problem for the Obama administration which arguably does not have authority to implement any aspect of Obamacare.
The plot thickens.
Florida Federal Judge Voids Entire Health Care Law


  1. Great analysis, Quite Rightly! I love judges who actually follow the Constitution. I'll have to read the judges ruling.

  2. This was actually quite refreshing. Talk about setting the bar for other judges that now touch this. Wouldn't want to be them.

  3. @teresa - It sure feels great to know that the Founder's intentions still have weight--at least for some judges.

    @John - Yes, it's not going to be easy to "rewrite" Judge Vinson's logic.