Conservative Federal Judge Deems Portion of Health Care Law Unconstitutional

After two federal judges had deemed the new Health Care law constitutional, a Virginia federal judge appointed by George W. Bush has deemed it’s “individual mandate” provision unconstitutional.  The New York Times has the story:

A federal judge in Virginia ruled on Monday that the keystone provision in the Obama health care law is unconstitutional, becoming the first judge to invalidate any part of the sprawling act and ensuring that appellate courts will receive contradictory opinions from below.

The judge, Henry E. Hudson of Federal District Court in Richmond, said the law’s requirement that most Americans obtain insurance exceeded the regulatory authority granted to Congress under the Commerce Clause.

(…)

In a 42-page opinion, Judge Hudson wrote: “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.”

Allowing Congress to exert such authority, he said, “would invite unbridled exercise of federal police powers.”

Compelling vehicle owners to carry accident insurance, as states do, is considered a different matter because the Constitution gives the states broad police powers that have been interpreted to encompass that. Furthermore, there is no statutory requirement that people possess cars, only a requirement that they have insurance as a condition of doing so. By contrast, the plaintiffs in the health care case argue that the new law requires people to obtain health insurance simply because they exist.

The insurance mandate is central to the law’s mission of covering more than 30 million people who are uninsured. Insurers argue that only by requiring healthy people to have policies can they afford to pay for those with expensive conditions. But Judge Hudson ruled that many of the law’s other provisions could be severed legally and would survive even if the mandate is invalidated.

Judge Hudson is the third district court judge to reach a determination on the merits in one of the two dozen lawsuits challenging the health care law. The other judges, in Detroit and Lynchburg, Va., have upheld the law. Lawyers say the appellate process could last another two years before the Supreme Court settles the dispute.

The opinion by Judge Hudson, who has a long history in Republican politics in Northern Virginia, continued a partisan pattern in the health care cases. Thus far, judges appointed by Republican presidents have ruled consistently against the Obama administration, while Democratic appointees have found for it.

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