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Liberty University's Challenge of New Health Care Law Tossed by Judge

4 years ago
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For those of you keeping score at home, the tally now is now 2-2.

When a federal judge in Virginia Tuesday tossed out the latest challenge to the new health care law, a challenge brought by Jerry Falwell's Liberty University among others, it marked the fourth time in four months that the nation's judiciary had chimed in on the constitutionality of the controversial measures. Twice, in cases in Michigan and now in Virginia, federal trial judges have upheld the new law as a proper exercise of congressional power under the "Commerce Clause" of the Constitution. Twice, in cases in Virginia and Florida, federal trial judges have allowed legal challenges to continue apace toward trial, implying if not outright declaring that the law places unconstitutional burdens on states and individuals.

The two judges who have allowed health care challenges to proceed are Republican appointees. The two judges who have dismissed those challenges are Democratic appointees. Soon, the federal appellate courts will get involved. We'll start seeing divided panels and disputes among the circuits -- all essentially focusing upon the same handful of legal points that make up the gravamen of the dispute here: does the Congress have the power to do what it did? And did it exercise that power in a constitutional manner?

And then, in a year or two, when there is a sufficient smattering of lower court rulings, when the record has been fleshed out a bit, the United States Supreme Court will step in and resolve the dispute now brewing at the lower court level. Barring any changes to the Court's personnel, swing-vote specialist Justice Anthony Kennedy, as he so often does, will likely decide the fate of the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act of 2009. And he will likely do so in 2012, just in time for the next presidential election.

Until then, we are left to read the widely scattered and contradictory tea leaves. On Tuesday afternoon, U.S. District Judge Norman K. Moon, a Clinton appointee, was direct in telling Liberty University and several individual plaintiffs that they had no case worthy of being brought to trial. "I hold," he wrote, "that there is a rational basis for Congress to conclude that individuals' decisions about how and when to pay for health care are activities that in the aggregate substantially affect the interstate health care market." By "choosing to forgo insurance," Judge Moon wrote, the individual plaintiffs "are making an economic decision to try to pay for health care services later, out of pocket, rather than now, through the purchase of insurance."

Judge Moon also roundly rejected the plaintiffs' (so far) unique argument that the federal health care measure violates their religious rights under the First Amendment by forcing them, for example, through mandatory insurance payments, to bear the costs of abortions. They failed, the judge wrote, even "to allege how any payments required under the Act, whether fines, fees, taxes or the cost of the policy, would be used to fund abortion." On the contrary, the judge noted, the Act contained "strict safeguards at multiple levels to prevent federal funds from being used to pay for abortion services . . . " This First Amendment wrinkle, which best distinguishes the Liberty University case from the three that have preceded it, is the argument least likely to gain any traction when these cases begin to hit the appellate courts sometime next year.

But first more hearings at the trial court level. The next big milestone on the Act's long journey through the courts will come in two weeks, on Dec. 16, when there is a substantial hearing in the Florida health care lawsuit. In that case, U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson, a Reagan appointee, presides. He'll likely have another order published around the same time that Liberty University has perfected its appeal of Judge Moon's ruling; around the same time that yet another federal trial judge somewhere has chimed in as well on the validity of the Act.

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I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them. Thomas Jefferson

December 13 2010 at 2:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Are people really reading and understanding what the "Health care plan" is trying to achieve or are they just reacting emotionally to rhetoric??? I wish they would truly read and understand what it set out to accomplish, before wasting more money on these court filings. That money could be better spent in ways more helpful/useful to Americans and the economy.

December 08 2010 at 9:34 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

A better argument, although likely to have received the same lower court ruling from a Democrat-appointed liberal judge, is one of religious discrimination. How can one religious group (Amish) be excluded because of their religious belief and another be required to participate for the same reason?

December 02 2010 at 2:00 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Is this the same racist liberty university that not long ago prohibited interracial dating? If a black guy dated a white girl he was expelled from that school.

December 02 2010 at 12:31 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

Time to sweep the Libs/Progs out of our courts. They are perverted the very foundation upon which this country was built. The problem is, at least in Cook County Chicago, there is no opposition to the Libs/Progs/Dems in our elections. This is disgraceful, that the people do not have a choice, simply because one Party has a stranglehold on the County. No one seems to have the money to oppose those who make a mockery of our rights, freedom, and good judgment that should be uppermost in our justice system.

December 02 2010 at 12:00 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply

...It sounds as if it comes down to who has more judges, the Dems or the Reps. That is why is it so very important in the Pres. elections to choose the right person because of whom they might appoint for judges. I think politics is the underlying factor in most every decision. They say it's not but in actuality, it is.

December 02 2010 at 11:13 AM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply

With all due respect, since when does a judge agreeing to hear a case "imply if not outright declare that the law places unconstitutional burdens on states and individuals?" That is a ridiculous and false twisting of the facts. It merely means that the case has enough merit to be worthy of a trial. That is the whole point of our legal and governmental system: When somebody, no matter how large or small, has a reasonable legal case against another party, they have the right to have that case tried... to have all evidence "laid on the table" so an impartial judge and/or a jury can make a judgement based on the facts, the law, and the constitution. On the contrary, when a judge throws a case out without letting it go to trial, that DOES imply something. Specifically, it implies that the case is so weak and so capricious that the judge doesn't even think it is worth the court's time to go any further since there is literally no hope of a victorious outcome based on the law. In other words (if you get beyond the small sample size), the fact that two cases reaching court have been tossed out, while two more have been held over for trial actually implies that, so far, the arguments being made are very weak. Two were so inherently weak that they did not even merit a trial, while the other two merely meet a minimal threshold of possible merit that the courts deemed it appropriate to "get more information". Obviously the cases will continue on their merry way, and, in time, the Supreme Court will make a decision. Quite frankly, I don't see how this law can be deemed unconstitutional while medicare and social security ARE constitutional. You can't have it both ways, folks. Either the government has a right to create programs like these for the benefit of all citizens or they don't. There is no middle ground. If they don't, so be it. Conservatives will have their favorite wish come true: The dismantling of social security and medicare; and, just as importantly, any Republican elected official who supports the dismantling of social security and medicare can count the days to their next election to determine the sum total of their remaining days in elected office FOREVER. You can deny it all you want, but there are two things that have not and will not change for the foreseeable future: Senior citizens, whether liberal, moderate, or conservative, all DESPERATELY NEED and CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT medicare and social security, and, unlike every other demographic, senior citizens vote in large numbers in EVERY election.

December 02 2010 at 10:50 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I thought that Judges were supposed to be impartial. 2 Dems uphold the law 2 reps allow it to go forward. How can these judges sit on the bench and consider their judgements impartial?

December 02 2010 at 9:09 AM Report abuse +7 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to jkcow's comment
blue eyes

No judges have impartial opinions. They must apply the law, but for the most part their are guidelines we Non judicial type don't understand until the verdict is passed.

Most of the successful challenges are in courts friendly to the viewpoint of the filing parties. Most rational people should let challenges be made and argued based on constitutional guidelines.

January 31 2011 at 10:08 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

A lot here want to take away some one else's freedom so they can get them to pay for their healthcare! they seem to assume any one not buying insurance would be going to the emergency room!!!!!!! But then I guess when nearly 50% do not pay any income tax and yell about the Cuts(actually increases) of job creators/taxpayers woukd can you expect! The dem/libs have been working towards Marxism for 80 years!!!!

December 02 2010 at 8:58 AM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Stan's comment

Quit crying about your loss of freedom. Freedom to be irresponsible is not in the bill of rights.When a person goes to the hospital and is turned away because they have no insurance it is an atrocity. When 48000 people a year die because they are too poor to get health-care and make to much to get any help. I work, I pay taxes, and I think that anyone that believes we don't need Universal Health-care has their head in the sand. Healthcare is 38% of our GDP it is too important to let the idiots have control. There are more important things than insurance companies profits.

December 02 2010 at 12:12 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Article left out some interesting comments by the judge and government lawyers!!!!! Obama "this is not a tax" Mandating people buy insurance. Government lawyers argued in judge Moon's court it was a tax(just like FDR lawyers and SS)! When Judge Moon ruled he called them "penalties"! He also said they were needed or the costs of Obamacare would be to high! So socialism advocated by Judge!

December 02 2010 at 8:51 AM Report abuse +7 rate up rate down Reply

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