Virginia judge slaps down individual mandate in ‘ObamaCare’

By Patrick B. McGuigan

Published: 13-Dec-2010

In a dramatic rebuff to the Obama administration, a federal judge in Virginia today (Monday, December 13) struck down the federal health care law’s requirement for individuals to purchase health insurance. The ruling follows much of the reasoning advanced by Oklahoma’s recently-elected attorney general, Scott Pruitt.

Judge Henry E. Hudson found that Congress had exceeded its authority in passing such a mandate. In a 42-page opinion, Hudson wrote as follows:

“Neither the Supreme Court nor any federal circuit court of appeals has extended Commerce Clause powers to compel an individual to involuntarily enter the stream of commerce by purchasing a commodity in the private market. In doing so, enactment of the [individual mandate] exceeds the Commerce Clause powers vested in Congress under Article I [of the Constitution.]”

Judge Hudson did not enjoin the law, noting that key provisions do not take effect until 2014. He did not strike down the law’s other provisions, but the individual mandate is widely considered a pivotal feature of the law passed last spring.

The case in Virginia, brought by the Commonwealth’s Attorney General, Kenneth Cuccinelli, is in contrast to two prior lower court rulings on the issue, in both Virginia and Michigan. The most significant case might be another challenge in Florida, where 20 states have sought to overturn the law.

In an October press conference at the state Capitol in Oklahoma City, Attorney General Cuccinelli told reporters the individual mandate forcing individuals to purchase health insurance coverage or face penalties was unprecedented.

He said then, “It is beyond the power of Congress and the federal government to mandate this activity. … Nothing like this law has even been done in the history of the United States. It is unprecedented in its scope and impact on the Constitution and relationship between the federal and state governments.

“Never before has the government presumed the authority to tell Americans, force them, to buy a product. The law was passed under the guise of the commerce powers. It’s a twisting of the federal power for the government to regulate inactivity as if it were activity.”

Cuccinelli made his comments in a state Capitol press conference on Monday, October 25, when he also endorsed former state Sen. Scott Pruitt. In the November 2 election, Pruitt overwhelmingly defeated Jim Priest, the Democratic Party’s nominee.

In discussions with Oklahoma reporters, including CapitolBeatOK, Cuccinelli contended, “This is not about health insurance but about liberty. If the case is lost, it will be the end of federalism as we have known it.”

Pruitt then told reporters he would, if elected the state’s top legal officer, join the Virginia or Florida cases now underway, or consider filing a new lawsuit on the matter. Cuccinelli at the time explained, “The entire bill is at stake. We’ve asked the court to enjoin the entire bill.” As noted above, Cuccinelli’s litigation was unsuccessful in gaining a broader injunction.

Defending the litigation, the Virginian said the attorneys general of the American states are “the last line of defense. It’s the AGs who legitimately exercise authority versus the federal government. In the federalist structure they are the best line of defense to push back against federal authority that is excessive. … The protection of the rule of law is a fight to protect the opportunity of all of us. Regulations always impair opportunity and reduce liberty. This litigation is fighting against excessive impairment and reduction of liberty.”