Marc Ambinder and Steve Benen have it all figured out. The lawsuits challenging the health care mandate obviously are frivolous because the Complaints filed do not contain any case authority supporting the claims.

Gotcha! Those dumb Republican lawyers obviously don’t know what they’re doing! They have no case!

Ambinder started it off, by relying on a comment by one of his readers:

Reading through the complaint filed by 13 state attorneys general, against the health reform legislation, reader @calchala was struck by something that wasn’t there: the lack of any specific case citation to buttress the underlying claim that it is unconstitutional for the federal government to impose on individuals a mandate to buy health care and to punish those who don’t by levying a fine.

Steve Benen then ran with it, linking to Ambinder’s post and an anonymous Tweet (click on the links in the quote):

I saw a report the other day that 13 state attorneys general who are challenging the law, questioning the constitutionality of the individual mandate, failed to include “any specific case citations to buttress the underlying claim that it is unconstitutional.” A.L. took a look at the lawsuit and concluded, “It is beyond frivolous. I can’t believe actual lawyers are willing to sign it.” …

If there were any justice, these attorneys general would face a voter backlash for participating in such a wasteful stunt.

WARNING: Do not rely on anonymous comments and tweets for legal reasoning.

There is no requirement that a Complaint cite case law, and indeed it would be unusual if not improper to include case citations in a Complaint.

That’s why we have these things called “Briefs.” Perhaps you have heard of them. Briefs are the place where lawyers cite case law, statutes, rules, regulations and all other sorts of fun legal stuff supporting their case.

The Complaint merely is a jurisdictional document meant to put the opponent on notice of the claims. Here is the text of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a):

A pleading that states a claim for relief must contain:

(1) a short and plain statement of the grounds for the court’s jurisdiction, unless the court already has jurisdiction and the claim needs no new jurisdictional support;
(2) a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief; and
(3) a demand for the relief sought, which may include relief in the alternative or different types of relief.

That’s all you have to include (exceptions to this general standard don’t apply here).

There is a frivolous argument here, and it is that the failure to cite case authority in a Complaint reflects on the merits of the Complaint.

Get these guys some lawyers, quick, before they embarrass themselves.

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