Thursday, February 3, 2011

District court dismisses complaint in Walters v. Holder (aka Bryant v. Holder)

United States District Judge Keith Starrett (S.D. Miss.) today issued a memorandum opinion and order dismissing the complaint in Walters v. Holder (and Bryant v. Holder) on the ground that the plaintiffs had failed to allege sufficient facts in their complaint to establish that they have Article III standing. You can access the opinion here 

There are two sets of plaintiffs in this case. First, there are ten private individuals who claim to be injured by the minimum coverage requirement. With respect to them, Judge Starrett held that they "have not plead sufficient facts to establish that they have standing to challenge the Constitutionality of the minimum essential coverage provision of the PPACA." This seems to be an exceedingly narrow, factbound holding. The judge took issue with their failure to allege that they will not be subject to the religious exemption, for instance, or that they would not qualify for the means-related exemption. Thus, it should be relatively simple for these plaintiffs to amend their complaint and re-instigate their challenge. Indeed, Judge Starrett dismissed the complaint without prejudice, giving the plaintiffs 30 days to do so and come back to the court with sufficient allegations to establish an injury in fact.

The other plaintiff is Mississippi Lieutenant Governor Phil Bryant. The court reached the same conclusion regarding the lack of sufficient, specific factual allegations that he will be harmed in his individual capacity by the individual mandate. Further, the court held that, to the extent Bryant was trying to assert the sovereign interests of the State of Mississippi (such as through the claim that the ACA violates the Tenth Amendment), he has no standing to do so.

Thus, the plaintiffs will have 30 days to amend their complaint, and the district court will consider anew the United States's motion to dismiss.