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Monday, August 2, 2010

Virginia Fed Ct Denies U.S. Motion To Dismiss Health Care Challenge - Copy and Analysis

A federal judge in Virginia has refused to dismiss a lawsuit brought by the State of Virginia challenging the Obamacare health care mandate as beyond the scope of the Commerce Clause and as a violation of the 10th Amendment. The judge allowed the suit to proceed on both grounds.

The opinion is a significant victory, but keep in mind this only is the start of the case. The Judge ruled that the case was not defective as a matter of law, and did not rule on the merits. A motion to dismiss, in this context, only tests whether the plaintiff has stated a legally cognizable claim and sufficient facts as to suggest that the plaintiff is entitled to move forward.

In this case, I think the opinion is more significant than normally might be the case because the judge made extensive findings as to the law, and that law will not change unless some appeals court or the U.S. Supreme Court rules on a related issue in the interim. So the opinion does give us a guide as to how the judge views the law, and that view generally is favorable to Virginia.

The other thing that makes this opinion significant is that the facts also will not change much, unlike most cases which are fact intensive. Here, the facts are the legislation and legislative history. Those will not change. This is not a case where an evidentiary hearing should be needed to resolve disputed issues of fact.

Net-net, this opinion signals that the judge believes there is some validity to the constitutional challenges to the health care mandate. That is not a prediction of victory for Virginia, but it is a fair assessment of the opinion.

Throughout the opinion, the Court notes that the questions presented are novel and have not definitively been resolved in this context of a mandate and purported tax levied on non-economic activity. The case precedent, the Court held, do give support to Virginia's position, at least enough so for the case to move forward.

This is a very encouraging sign for those of us who believe that the health care mandate is unconstitutional. Call it Taxing Your Mere Existence.

Update August 3 - A hearing on the merits is set for October 18.

Virginia v. Sebelius - Opinion Denying Motion to Dismiss

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  1. Professor, has there been a ruling in the Florida case as yet? In either of the cases, has the matter of the health care mandate as an un-apportioned tax been raised?

  2. this is where law bloggers shine, because legal reporting, to be blunt, sucks.

    that being said, i will register again that i hate this format, especially because the only way i can download it at work is if i sign in to facebook, which, um, isn't allowed.

    i mean given that my work involves health care, its not like this is not work related, but still...

  3. As a Virginian, I am encouraged. I was a bit concerned when VA had to file separately from the other states, waaaaay back when this was first brought up (was it only March of this year?! my how time flies!).

    The lower court judges in this state vary as to their liberal/conservative views on the Constitution, so it may be another example of allowing the case to proceed, but then ruling with the administration's (read "thugs'") viewpoint - liberal and without reason. (Kinda like in AZ.....encouraging opening but obviously biased ruling). Only time will tell.

  4. I am for the health care bill as the first step to address the 600 billion dollars in profits to commercial health care. That said this looks to have standing. Which means that universal health care is the only way to go, at 5% or less of admin. costs.

  5. "Which means that universal health care is the only way to go, at 5% or less of admin. costs."

    Good luck selling that to the American people.