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by
Dan Miller

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March 3, 2011 - 5:12 pm

Much has been written and said about Judge Vinson’s  ruling today granting a very limited stay of his earlier declaratory ruling (which he “clarified” to have been the equivalent of an injunction) against further implementation of ObamaCare. I have little to add other than a few quotations from today’s decision; it is tantamount to a statement that the federal government acted in bad faith.

Judge Vinson noted:

So to “clarify” my order and judgment: The individual mandate was declared unconstitutional. Because that “essential” provision was unseverable from the rest of the Act, the entire legislation was void. This declaratory judgment was expected to be treated as the “practical” and “functional equivalent of an injunction” with respect to the parties to the litigation. This expectation was based on the “longstanding presumption” that the defendants themselves [the federal government] identified and agreed to be bound by, which provides that a declaratory judgment against federal officials is a de facto injunction. To the extent that the defendants were unable (or believed that they were unable) to comply, it was expected that they would immediately seek a stay of the ruling, and at that point in time present their arguments for why such a stay is necessary, which is the usual and standard procedure. It was not expected that they would effectively ignore the order and declaratory judgment for two and one-half weeks, continue to implement the Act, and only then file a belated motion to “clarify.”

[T]he defendants had acknowledged in their summary judgment opposition brief that, if I were to find for the plaintiffs, separate injunctive relief would be superfluous and unnecessary. The defendants expressly assured the court that, in light of the “long-standing presumption that a declaratory judgment provides adequate relief as against an executive officer, as it will not be presumed that that officer will ignore the judgment of the Court,” any declaratory judgment in the plaintiffs’ favor “would [ ] be adequate to vindicate [the plaintiffs’] claims.” Defendants’ Memorandum in Opposition to Plaintiffs’ Motion for Summary Judgment (doc. 137), at 43.(emphasis added)

To avoid further delay, Judge Vinson also ruled on a motion the government had stated an intention to present should he decide adversely. Principally in view of  disagreement among the twenty-six plaintiff states and within some of those states, he granted a stay, for a week, pending the filing of an appeal with the Court of Appeals. He noted that:

The sooner this issue is finally decided by the Supreme Court, the better off the entire nation will be. And yet, it has been more than one month from the entry of my order and judgment and still the defendants have not filed their notice of appeal.

It should not be at all difficult or challenging to “fast-track” this case. The briefing with respect to the general issues involved are mostly already done, as the federal government is currently defending several other similar challenges to the Act that are making their way through the appellate courts. Furthermore, the legal issues specific to this case have already been fully and very competently briefed. With a few additional modifications and edits (to comply with the appellate rules), the parties could probably just change the caption of the case, add colored covers, and be done with their briefing. . . .  [T]he stay will be conditioned upon the defendants filing their anticipated appeal within seven (7) calendar days of this order and seeking an expedited appellate review, either in the Court of Appeals or with the Supreme Court under Rule 11 of that Court. . . .

How’s that for a slap in the face?

Judge Vinson dealt briefly with the decision of Judge Kessler of another district court holding that a decision not to buy ObamaInsurance constitutes activity in commerce sufficient to invoke the Commerce Clause. I wrote about this and suggested here that there are other things to consider, such as whether a failure to decide to purchase ObamaInsurance also constitutes “activity” in commerce; it should not, and that will probably be exactly what lots of folks fail to do.

Dan Miller graduated from Yale University in 1963 and from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1966. He retired from the practice of law in Washington, D.C., in 1996 and has lived in a rural area in Panama since 2002.
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