Monday, January 31, 2011

Judge Vinson's ruling

We will be offering a much more in-depth analysis of Judge Vinson’s ruling later today, but for now, here is a basic summary of what he held:

1. The constitutionality of the Medicaid expansion provision:

Judge Vinson held that “while the plaintiffs’ coercion theory claim was plausible enough to survive dismissal,” it “cannot succeed and that the defendants are entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” (Ruling at 11–12.)

2. The constitutionality of the individual mandate:

First, in regard to whether inactivity can fall within Congress’s Commerce Clause authority, Judge Vinson held that “‘activity’ is an indispensable part of the Commerce Clause analysis.” (Id. at 43–44.) Second, Judge Vinson held that the individual mandate regulates inactivity. (Id. at 44.) Third, in regard to the United States’ argument that the health care market is unique, Judge Vinson held that “the defendants’ argument that people without health insurance are actively engaged in interstate commerce based on the purported ‘unique’ feature of the much broader health care market is neither factually convincing nor legally supportable.” (Id. at 51–52.) Fourth, regarding the United States’ argument that the decision not to purchase health care insurance is the equivalent of activity, Judge Vinson held that to accept such a contention would be a “bridge to far,” which would exceed “the existing legal boundaries established by Supreme Court precedent.” (Id. at 56.) Fifth, in regard to the United States’ reliance on the Necessary and Proper Clause, Judge Vinson held: “[T]he individual mandate falls outside the boundary of Congress’ Commerce Clause authority and cannot be reconciled with a limited government of enumerated powers. By definition, it cannot be ‘proper.’” (Id. at 63.)

Judge Vinson concluded by holding that the individual mandate is not constitutional, and that “summary judgment must be granted in favor of the plaintiffs on Count 1.” (Id.) Judge Vinson then addressed the issue that has kept both sides wondering for past several months: whether the individual mandate is severable from the rest of the legislation. He answered in the negative. Judge Vinson wrote, “I must conclude that the individual mandate and the remaining provisions are all inextricably bound together in purpose and must stated or fall as a single unit. The individual mandate cannot be severed.” (Id. at 74.)

3. On whether injunctive relief should be granted:

Judge Vinson held that “the award of declaratory relief is adequate and separate injunctive relief not necessary.” (Id. 75.)