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4th Circuit tosses Virginia Obamacare suit on “standing” grounds

4th Circuit tosses Virginia Obamacare suit on “standing” grounds

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.

Updates:  The Virginia opinion is here.  A companion case brought by Liberty University is here.

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.”


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Didn’t a bunch of private citizens sue and had their case tossed out for the same reason? Are the courts saying that no one has the right to challenge that law?

Sounds like the court punted on the issue.

This was an defensive “punt,” but Judge Diana Gribbon Motz, Judge Davis and Judge Wynn did themselves no favours.

[…] the court’s ruling.Diana, Andre, James: may the Almighty have mercy on you.Update: More at Legal Insurrection.Category: Health CareComments Matt Lewis…such suits would […]

And the Press has wasted no time going into the chorus:

The score is now 2 to 1
The score is now 2 to 1
The courts have now spoken
Obamacare’s not broken
The score is now 2 to 1

Because, of course, we can *only* sue after a law has completly bankrupted everybody involved… *sigh*

    Albert Einstein’s response to the 1931 pamphlet “100 authors against Einstein,” commissioned by the German Nazi Party as a clumsy contradiction to the Relativity Theory, said, “If I were wrong, then one would have been enough.”

    There is only one court that really matters, and this decision pretty much cements the case that it will go there.

One would think that the Medicaid formula changes, which will have significant negative effects on ALL States, would put Virginia into a “standing” status. Apparently Cuccinelli did not utilize that argument?

Some points:

1. The issue of standing is often used for political purposes. It gives the judges (in their minds, anyway) the appearance of not taking sides when, in fact, they have done exactly that.

2. It’s a sad day for the Constitution when a state feels the need for a special law to give a way to sue the fed for violating the 10th amendment (at least).

3. It’s a sadder day when a court simply dismisses the validity of said law (on the basis of what precedent or Constitutional principle????) and apparently never even considers that it was, in fact, ruling that the principle of federalism simply doesn’t exist.

4. I knew the 9th circuit was a rogue court with little regard for the Constitution or the people. I guess I need to add the 4th to that list as well. I hope there aren’t too many others.

    Neo in reply to irv. | September 8, 2011 at 5:38 pm

    Reading around, The Virginia v Sebelius probably deserved to go down in flames on “standing.” While Virginia may have had standing vis-à-vis a Medicaid claim, on the “individual mandate,” Virginia is not an individual, and they went to war so quickly they forgot to include a few.

[…] State of Virginia. The judges are all Democrat appointees. They say there was no standing to sue. Legal Insurrection has the details. Betsey McCaughey isn’t too concerned.Jon Huntsman likes to tout his […]

PJ Tattler says:

“The 4th Circuit relied exclusively on the doctrine of nullification in rejecting AG Cuccinelli’s lawsuit. The doctrine says a state law cannot nullify a federal law.

Here is the problem: That doctrine applies to state laws which are passed after a federal law, in order to, ostensibly, cancel them.

In this case, the 4th Circuit actually misstated the date of the Virginia law which immunized citizens against a mandate to buy insurance. The court claimed they passed this law after ObamaCare was passed, but in fact they seem to have confused two different laws. In fact, the Virginia law was passed before ObamaCare.”

Who does have “standing”? At what point do “We the People” have the right to throw the BS flag?