Thursday, March 3, 2011

Judge Vinson Rules! (again)

Today, Judge Vinson released his response to the Government's request for a "clarification" of his ruling in Florida v. HHS. If you have been closely following the court cases for the constitutionality of the individual mandate, this order reads like the rise to the climax of a great suspense drama. In it, the government lawyers are thoroughly spanked for misbehaving---and then, in the interests of moving things forward as quickly as possible towards a Supreme Court ruling, Judge Vinson grants the government a stay it did not officially request.

What does all this mean?

At the end of January, Judge Vinson ruled that the individual mandate was unconstitutional, and the because the mandate is an integral part of the legislation, it can not be severed without fatally undermining the greater regulatory intent of the law. For these reasons, the entire law was struck down. Judge Vinson granted declaratory relief, but not injunctive relief, to the plaintiff because "the "declaratory judgement was expected to be treated as the "practical" and "functional equivalent of an injunction"--based on a "long standing presumption that the defendants [i.e. the government] themselves identified and agreed to be bound by." (see today's order, page 14.) Judge Vinson explained today that he expected the government to promptly respond to his ruling with a request for a stay pending appeal--not for the government to completely ignore his ruling, and then file a belated request for a "clarification" of a ruling which was perfectly clear. Vinson indicated that the game-playing delay tactics by the government lawyers are recognized for what they are and will NOT be tolerated.

So after having previously ruled that implementation of the PPACA should halt, why the apparent turn-around by granting a stay of execution of his previous ruling?

Judge Vinson recognizes the complexity of the case, and that it will not be resolved until the Supreme Court finalizes its interpretation. Although the plaintiffs are suffering injury under continuation of the law, given the mixed current rulings (see below) and the uncertainty of the final ruling, the disruption will be greater if the law is halted while under appeal.

The 20 page "Order" is interesting and fun to read--even if you haven't had time to read the eloquent legal discussion in Vinson's original ruling.

The stakes are high here. Nothing less than the nature of our government: is it all-powerful, or limited? If limited, what are the boundaries?

I strongly recommend reading Vinson's original ruling. He provides a well written synopsis of the evolution of Commerce Clause interpretation. For an interesting alternative analysis, read Randy Barnett's amicus curiae, or his longer article "Commandeering the People: Why the individual Mandate is Unconstitutional." If you really get into it, there are the rest of the current court rulings and a few of the relevant landmark Supreme court cases listed below.

(If you want just a few choice quotes from today's order, you'll find some here.)

Happy reading.

Current Individual Mandate law suit rulings

Case #1 – individual mandate ruled constitutional

Thomas Moore Law Center v. Obama 10-07-10

Randy Barnett amicus curiae – very worthwhile reading.

Case #2 – individual mandate ruled constitutional

Liberty University v. Geithner 11-30-10

Case #3 – individual mandate ruled unconstitutional, and severable

Virginia v. Sebelius 12-13-10

Case #4 – individual mandate ruled unconstitutional and nonseverable, declaratory relief granted; injunctive relief denied as unnecessary because declartory relief is sufficient

Florida v. HHS 01-31-11

Case #5 – individual mandate ruled constitutional

Mead v. Holder 02-22-11

Case #4 – Order 03-03-11

Judge Vinson “clarifies” that he had clearly ruled the PPACA unconstitutional and expected the Government to either quickly file appeal or cease implementing the law.

A stay of his declaratory injunction is granted provided the Government files a notice for an expedited appeal within seven days.

Key Landmark Supreme Court Cases on the Commerce Clause

Wickard v. Filburn (1942)

U.S. v. Lopez (1995)

U.S. v. Morrison (2000)

Gonzales v. Raich (2004)


Elisheva Hannah Levin said...

This is Legal Geek Heaven! Thanks!

HaynesBE said...

Hadn't thought about it quite in those terms, but I guess you are right!

HaynesBE said...

Elisheva-- Be sure to read at least Vinson's latest ruling. You will thoroughly enjoy it.

Liberal Stupidity said...

We are so used to seeing Liberal activist judges' rulings, that it's refreshing to see a judge that has some common sense and decency.

HaynesBE said...

Vinson's logical, no nonsense writing is indeed refreshing.