The 4th Circuit has dismissed Virginia’s Obamacare mandate suit, which Virginia won in the District Court, on the ground that the Attorney General did not have “standing” to sue (meaning that he was not a person legally entitled to sue).
I haven’t seen the opinion yet, but here is the report:
President Obama wins the latest round in the health care legal fight.
A federal appeals court tossed out Virginia’s lawsuit against the Obama health care law, ruling that the state’s attorney general lacked legal standing to bring the case.
The decision essentially reversed a lower court judge’s ruling that the law violates the Constitution because it forces most Americans to buy some sort of health insurance.
The appeals court did not rule on the constitutional issues involved in the challenge to the health care law.
Assuming this is a correct summary, then it is a minor victory for Obama because the Court did not reach the issue of whether the mandate itself is constitutional. The 11th Circuit decision threw out the mandate on the merits.
There now is a split among the Circuits not only on the merits, but also as to who has standing, making it even more likely the Supreme Court will take the cases.
So now I’ve read it, and the ruling asserts that Virginia premised it’s right to sue on a state anti-mandate law passed the day of Obamacare was signed into law and signed by the the Gov. of Virginia the next day. The 4th Circuit said that since the anti-mandate law was not a real law (my term) but merely a pretext to challenge the federal law, the mandate did not actually affect a real state sovereign power because the anti-mandate law didn’t really do anything. I have not focused on the standing aspect that much, but if the court is correct, then perhaps Virginia made a tactical error.
Needless to say, the Virginia A.G. doesn’t see it that way, releasing a statement which reads in part:
“Contrary to the court’s suggestion, this suit has always been about vindicating the power of the Virginia General Assembly to legislate about a subject that has historically been viewed as falling within the areas the Constitution left to the states. Health, safety, and welfare issues have long been recognized as being part of the powers reserved to the states by the Constitution,” Cuccinelli said.
Cuccinelli noted that the court’s stated reasons placed the ruling’s reasoning at odds with constitutional design. “In rejecting Virginia’s right to bring the action, the court said that allowing such suits would allow the states to serve as ‘roving constitutional watchdogs.’ This was exactly a role that the Founding Fathers planned for the states to have. As James Madison wrote, under the Constitution, ‘the power surrendered by the people is first divided between two distinct governments…Hence a double security arises to the rights of the people. The different governments [state and federal] will control each other…'”
Cuccinelli continued, “Not only does the court’s opinion reject the role of the states envisioned by the Constitution, it dismisses an act of the Virginia General Assembly-the Health Care Freedom Act-as a mere pretense or pretext. It is unfortunate that the court would be so dismissive of a piece of legislation that passed both houses of a divided legislature by overwhelming margins with broad, bipartisan support.”