Federal Court in Florida Strikes Down Health Care Law As Unconstitutional

United States District Court Judge Roger Vinson has struck down the entirety of the National Health Care law (The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) as unconstitutional. What is most interesting is his decision that the entire act had to be struck down because of the individual mandate provision’s unconstitutionality. Vinson grants declaratory relief but declines to grant injunctive relief.

Joined by governors and attorneys general from 26 states, the Florida challenge was broader than the recent Virginia challenge — that led to the striking down of the individual mandate provision. I have previously written about my own concerns over the constitutionality of that provision.

The decision of Judge Vinson will only increase the already high likelihood that the Supreme Court will review the controversy. The two major decisions in Virginia and Florida will be reviewed by two different courts of appeal. Two other rulings (supporting the law) are also moving toward the Supreme Court.

The rule also represents a rejection of the Administration’s effort to avoid review by challenging the standing of the state attorneys general. Ironically, I reviewed the Bond v. U.S. (09-1227) case in my Supreme Court class today. That case involves a woman who challenged her conviction on federalism grounds. The Third Circuit ruled that only states and state officials could challenge federal laws on federalism grounds. The Obama Administration (correctly in my view) switched sides before the Court and ended up arguing for the Bond that she did have standing. This could prove an important term on standing doctrine. The conservatives justices have been generally hostile to standing and have gradually carved out individuals and groups who can seek review of some laws.

Judge Vinson ruled that he could not treat the individual mandate provision as severable and thus (after agreeing with Judge Hudson in Virginia that the provision is unconstitutional) he struck down the entire act. He stated: Judge Roger Vinson said as a result of the unconstitutionality of the “individual mandate” that requires people to buy insurance, the entire law must be thrown out:

“I must reluctantly conclude that Congress exceeded the bounds of its authority in passing the Act with the individual mandate. That is not to say, of course, that Congress is without power to address the problems and inequities in our health care system. The health care market is more than one sixth of the national economy, and without doubt Congress has the power to reform and regulate this market. That has not been disputed in this case. The principal dispute has been about how Congress chose to exercise that power here.”

The court notes that Congress elected not to include a severability clause despite the fact that one was in an earlier version of the law — setting itself up for such a total rejection of the law.

The decision is a strong expression of federalism, starting with Madison’s famous statement from the Federalist Papers 51:

If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal
controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over
men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next
place oblige it to control itself.

The problem is the lack of a limiting principle in the arguments in favor of the law. Vinson notes:

The problem with this legal rationale, however, is it would essentially have unlimited application. There is quite literally no decision that, in the natural course
of events, does not have an economic impact of some sort. The decisions of whether and when (or not) to buy a house, a car, a television, a dinner, or even a
morning cup of coffee also have a financial impact that — when aggregated with similar economic decisions — affect the price of that particular product or service
and have a substantial effect on interstate commerce. To be sure, it is not difficult to identify an economic decision that has a cumulatively substantial effect on
interstate commerce; rather, the difficult task is to find a decision that does not.

He notes the political pressure in the case: “Because the individual mandate is unconstitutional and not severable, the
entire Act must be declared void. This has been a difficult decision to reach, and I am aware that it will have indeterminable implications. At a time when there is
virtually unanimous agreement that health care reform is needed in this country, it is hard to invalidate and strike down a statute titled “The Patient Protection and
Affordable Care Act.”

In rejecting an injunction, the court indicates that declaratory and injunctive relief should be essentially fungible:

The last issue to be resolved is the plaintiffs’ request for injunctive relief enjoining implementation of the Act, which can be disposed of very quickly. Injunctive relief is an “extraordinary” [Weinberger v. Romero-Barcelo, 456 U.S. 305, 312, 102 S. Ct. 1798, 72 L. Ed. 2d 91 (1982)], and “drastic” remedy [Aaron v. S.E.C., 446 U.S. 680, 703, 100 S. Ct. 1945, 64 L. Ed. 2d 611 (1980) (Burger, J., concurring)]. It is even more so when the party to be enjoined is the federal government, for there is a long-standing presumption “that officials of the Executive Branch will adhere to the law as declared by the court. As a result, the declaratory judgment is the functional equivalent of an injunction.” See Comm. on Judiciary of U.S. House of Representatives v. Miers, 542 F.3d 909, 911 (D.C. Cir. 2008); accord Sanchez-Espinoza v. Reagan, 770 F.2d 202, 208 n.8 (D.C. Cir. 1985) (“declaratory judgment is, in a context such as this where federal officers are defendants, the practical equivalent of specific relief such as an injunction . . . since it must be presumed that federal officers will adhere to the law as declared by the court”) (Scalia, J.) (emphasis added). There is no reason to conclude that this presumption should not apply here. Thus, the award of declaratory relief is adequate and separate injunctive relief is not necessary.

I doubt the Administration will view it that way. They have two decision upholding the law and two rejecting the law on the district level. They are not likely to view themselves constructively enjoined.

Here is the entire decision by Judge Vinson: Vinson

Jonathan Turley

237 thoughts on “Federal Court in Florida Strikes Down Health Care Law As Unconstitutional”

  1. Several decades back English was spoken simply in Britain, America and a few British colonies.

    With this new method, it’s not much different than sitting across the table from a private tutor. It appears, at least for now, that that language is English.

  2. Post all you like, Tootles.

    Just expect to have your retrograde idiotic theocratic homophobic nonsense ridiculed.

    Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

  3. Oh, and the only blog I’m permanently banned from is the Red State blog.

    This is because they are neocon war-mongering imperialists and don’t much like to be reminded of it.

    I post all over the internet. Especially at left-wing blogs.

  4. Oh the whining and the crying!


    I ignore Tootie but talk about her incessantly!

    Hee hee.

    Mommy, Tootie posts too much! Whaaaaaa.

  5. Lotta, Zoe,

    Of course I meant Brian. Apologies for an obvious typo that I even checked for. That’s why it always pays to have someone else do your editing.

    Everyone else,

    As I’ve said in the past, I don’t hold anyone to my standards but myself. Which of course is who my break was about. We all have our reasons for being here. I just had to remember what mine was.

  6. Zoe,

    “The aim here is not to convince or inform the opponent, it’s to play to the gallery.”

    I knew I liked you for some reason other than being a rocket scientist. You grok blogging as many of the regulars here practice it. And there is no need to apologize for the de-railing. Some of the most interesting and entertaining threads here involve, shall we say, wandering subjects.

  7. I’m an activist. I pretty much have to be.

    To see why, have a look at

    TLDR version at http://transequality.org/PDFs/NTDS_Exec_Summary.pdf

    I don’t conceal my identity, nor my partisan bias. I try not to let it interfere too much with my objectivity, but I feel others are better judges of that than I am. Hopefully by revealing all, others can weigh what I say accurately, making allowances for my subjectivity.

    Why comment? Why do we spend time and effort and energy writing comments? Is it ego-boo, is it to “win” in some competition, or is it to inform others to attain some ideological end? Is it perhaps by interaction, to learn something? Maybe change our views to improve them, as the result of being educated by others? Maybe a combination?

    I consider it a “win” when I lose. When my views are shown to be flawed, so I can change them and improve them. OK, I’m a scientist, and also Aspergic, my thinking here is not typical, but I find it useful.

    When engaging with a “Yosemite Sam”, it can be difficult trying to tease any good points they might make from the dross. I’m sure Tootie makes some good points, but I’ll be durned if I can find them in the mass of venom. Pity.

    When such passionate fanatics are opposing you, and you are writing for an audience to try to convince them of the validity of your views, answering frothing insanity and vitriol with sweet reason is the way to go. Bystanders can soon see who’s moderately sane, and who’s stark staring bonkers. The aim here is not to convince or inform the opponent, it’s to play to the gallery.

    I hereby declare this thread de-railed. 😀 Sorry.

  8. Thanks for your input, Blouise. Well, really, all of you.

    Let’s hope the “angels of our better nature” prevail and reason and humor rather than retaliatory insults will continue to be used to handle “problem” posters.

    I like to throw the cat amongst the pigeons occasionally myself so I have to accept any feathers that land on me as a result.

    Onward and, hopefully, upward!

  9. Buddha,
    Like Blouise, I share your wavelength, as you well know. Your 3:27 pm comment was a bravura explanation of the dangers we face, why we face them and the possible way out. Your metaphor that we are in a war of words with propagandists of selfishness sums up my thoughts exactly, but it was clearly written and elegantly executed.

    Damn it too, you saw the Obama and his real agenda coming and I had stars in my eyes. I don’t see him though as a personification of evil, more a disappointment of opportunity. However, as you have expressed all along there ain’t no saviors out there, we need to save ourselves.

  10. Blouise,

    Sometimes we think so much alike, I suspect in a different life, I might have given Tex a run for his money. 😉

  11. See Mike? Look at this thread as an example. It is something we have both seen before. Even if you think back to Wayne’s threats, the shape of the events is still the same. Confrontation, conflagration, resolution, restoration.

    After the heat of battle – which may run days, the fog began to clear, burned away by the sunshine and blown away by the breeze . . .

    This is simply the way of things.

    Can we eliminate the heat of battle altogether? I submit “no”. But our perseverance manifests not only in persistence and constancy in engaging the enemy (namely bad and socially dangerous memes), but in how the fires are extinguished.

  12. Buckeye, Stick around for a wee bit longer, I enjoy your postings. If you take a break though, promise to come back.

  13. Buckeye,

    I suspect that the Prof moderates in moderation … I have no real knowledge of this but I liked putting the words together. 🙂

    I also suspect he respects our ability to moderate ourselves and each other with gentle chiding and that he does not wish to interfere with the passion of closely held beliefs nor the conversation that … if you read threads closely … often resolves the conflict.

    I prefer to accept initial posters for who they are and involve them in the conversation. If they are agent provocateurs, time will indeed reveal their mission … I also pay attention to the opinions of the long time posters in this area as they have met and mastered several of the agents over the years and their “sniffers” are sensitive to the con.

    Initially I was put off by the ugliness that the agent provocateurs create and not being a blogger on any other site, this was my introduction to the breed. A couple of the experienced folk on the blog explained the agent provocateur role as intentional disruption to accomplish exactly what you are considering … drive people off and denude the blog thus keeping the ideas expressed here from gaining any ground at all. It’s political dirty trickster stuff and often a pay check is involved.

    Once I understood I stopped taking them so seriously and only occasionally enter the fray.

    I’ve been reading Tootie for a long time and 2-3 months ago he/she started posting constantly whereas before he/she was an occasional poster. Also the posts have been getting more and more incendiary and contradictory. And if one knows fundamental Christians, and I know many, the thoughts expressed are not at all in line with the way fundamentalist think, reason, or express themselves. I don’t really believe I am dealing with a fundamentalist Christian when I answer Tootie and I choose my words accordingly.

    However that is just a minor irritation. The rest of the blog is chocked full of stimulating conversation and I love it.

  14. Mike S.,

    In re bdaman and Tootles

    I’ve been saying for some time, even directly to him, that he is not a true troll. He’s a faux troll at worst. “badtroll”, my pet name for him, is meant as a double entendre. He’s consumed too much propaganda on some issues and hence regurgitates it occasionally: a natural reaction to propaganda poisoning. I most wholeheartedly agree he is not a troll proper.

    I also agree with your assessment of Tootles. Her initial simple appearance has – especially as of late – been belied by a change in both tactics and substance. She is most certainly not what she seems.

    As to how to combat their infestation and propagation of lies and dangerous memes? I think we do a better job than most places by using various applications of reason, evidence, logic and humor. Their increasing frustration – even to the point of stepping from behind the curtain at times – only illustrates this. Do things get heated to the point of being hot? Most certainly. But the cool breeze of reason always tempers the edge of heated rhetoric in the end – just as it always has here. However, it is important to keep in mind that there is a war going on for the minds of American citizens. A war being waged by professional propagandists against civilians often unfamiliar with their tactics and strategies. So unfamiliar in fact, that many do not know they are being attacked as they are being attacked. I know the terms of inciting violence are (rightfully) out of vogue and should remain that way, but the metaphor of war is most apt for propaganda. In war, some battles become more heated than anyone anticipates: this is why they call it the ‘fog of war’. However, as you point out, standing aside to let the bad ideas propagate unchallenged is no more an option than is legitimizing them. The conundrum of how to discredit and disarm without some appearance of legitimization is and will remain exactly that though: a conundrum. The only solution I can see is to follow the advice of Sir Winston. “Sure I am of this, that you have only to endure to conquer. You have only to persevere to save yourselves.” – Winston Churchill

    The trick in doing so is perseverance without losing touch with the “angels of our better nature”. To become what one fights is to loose the battle. The trick, however, is a trick here I think every one of the regulars pulls off with great astuteness and skill even if sometimes the pyrotechnics cause temporary flash blindness.

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