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Posted at 3:28 PM ET, 12/14/2010

Va. health-care ruling will be appealed, Justice Department says

By Rosalind S. Helderman
Rosalind S. Helderman

Lawyers for President Obama will appeal a judge's ruling Monday that a key provision of the federal health-care law is unconstitutional, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Justice Department said Tuesday.

The appeal was widely expected in response to a ruling from U.S. District Court Judge Henry E. Hudson that Congress overstepped its constitutional authority by requiring individuals to obtain health insurance by 2014 or pay a fine.

The Justice Department also wants the case to proceed as normal for a such a case and be heard next by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit. Virginia Attorney Gen. Ken T. Cuccinelli II (R), who brought the case on behalf of the Commonwealth, had asked the Obama administration to join him in requesting that the U.S. Supreme Court expedite the case and bypass circuit court review.

In an interview, Cuccinelli said he would have been "heart-stoppingly shocked" if the Justice Department had not appealed. However, he said he had not yet heard from lawyers in the case about his request for expedited appeal.

He said he was "disappointed" that the Justice Department would release a public statement about the issue before contacting his office about a topic they've been discusing quietly for weeks. He said he has not yet decided whether to request Supreme Court intervention in the absence of Justice Department cooperation.

"We will huddle here in the office and decide how to proceed," Cuccinelli said.

"This is one of a number of cases concerning the Affordable Care Act pending before courts around the country, including four in which challenges to the law were unsuccessful that are already being heard by courts of appeals, including one by the Fourth Circuit," Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler said in a statement. "Virginia's suit is based on a state statute that is not applicable nationwide, and the Department believes this case should follow the ordinary course of allowing the courts of appeals to hear it first so the issues and arguments can be fully developed before the Supreme Court decides whether to consider it."

"As Judge Hudson noted in denying an injunction, the individual responsibility provision does not go into effect until 2014, so there is more than sufficient time for the courts to consider this case in their normal course of business," she said.

Legal experts say it would be exceedingly rare for the Supreme Court to accept the case before the circuit court has a chance to weigh in.

Republicans in Virginia had sought to apply political pressure, however, to the Justice Department to encourage them to sign on to the request for a speedy review. They argued that both sides would benefit from a quick resolution of the legal dispute. Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) is asking other governors to sign on to a letter encouraging the Justice Department to go along with the expedited process.

This item has been updated since it was first posted.

By Rosalind S. Helderman  | December 14, 2010; 3:28 PM ET
Categories:  Ken Cuccinelli, Robert F. McDonnell, Rosalind Helderman  
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this ruling is so tainted because of Hudsons republican activities it could become a text book example.

Posted by: MarilynManson | December 14, 2010 3:49 PM | Report abuse

I wouldn't bother to appeal. I would file a new case with the exact same wording except every where it says "require people to buy insurance" substitute "require medical providers to treat people without insurance free." If it is unconstitutional to make people buy insurance, then it is unconstitutional to make me pay for treating the uninsured.

Posted by: beesquare | December 14, 2010 5:50 PM | Report abuse

Unfortunate (but not surprising) that the Obama Administration would object to expedited Supreme Court review.

The legal uncertainty surrounding the massive health-care law is another burden on the U.S. economy. All sides would benefit by an earlier court ruling and a clear identification of its constitutional problems. The sooner we can fix this flawed legislation, the better.

But the White House apparently wants to delay - hoping perhaps for a better showing in the 2012 election.

As to the district court decision: Judge Hudson is well respected (despite the personal attacks being lobbed against him), having served in both state and federal courts.

His opinion carefully considered arguments from both sides. And he concluded that Congress had overreached by saying that the non-purchase of insurance somehow constituted "interstate commerce", which would allow Congress to order citizens to buy insurance against their will.

The U.S. Constitution does place limits on what Congress may do, regardless of how well-intentioned a piece of legislation may be. Judge Hudson's opinion is a good reminder of that principle.

Posted by: jrmil | December 14, 2010 5:50 PM | Report abuse

So, tax-subsidized health care funds cannot be used to offer women their full scope of legal reproductive care, but we can all pay for those who "choose" to not take personal responsibility for their own health care and go to the emergency room and rack up tens of thousands of dollars in costs that they are unable to pay. So we all do. In higher insurance premiums, deductibles, "indigent fees", and tax-funded Medicaid that will cover some dumb, redneck jerk getting drunk and falling down a flight of stairs, but won't cover an abortion for a poor woman.

What logic!

If women cannot get full reproductive care, then let those who choose to "opt out" bleed to death outside of the emergency room.

Posted by: CAC2 | December 14, 2010 5:56 PM | Report abuse

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