“…who will pay the law for the use of its brains and its time." The prolific 19th Century British author and playwright Wilkie Collins encapsulates how most of the public, plebian-like non-lawyers, often feel about convoluted courtroom battles. For example, the lawsuits are beginning to stack up against the federal government with regards to healthcare reform legislation from numerous states on the grounds of the Commerce Clause.
Within the same week that the reform bill passed, 13 attorneys general (AG) jointly filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), U.S. Department of Treasury and the U.S. Department of Labor, alleging the healthcare reform bill is unconstitutional because it mandates all citizens and legal residents to have qualifying healthcare coverage or pay a tax penalty. Florida AG Bill McCollum filed the case on behalf of the group, which had five more states join in April, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida, Pensacola Division.
According to the suit, by imposing such a mandate, the law exceeds the powers of the U.S. under Article I of the Constitution and violates the 10th Amendment to the Constitution. In addition, the allegations state that the “tax penalty required under the law constitutes an unlawful direct tax in violation of Article I, sections 2 and 9 of the Constitution.”
“Such a tax would not be apportioned between the states, as required under the Commerce Clause,” said Colorado AG John Suthers, who is part of the suit.
Last week, a District Court judge in Florida denied the HHS’ request for additional time to file a motion to dismiss an amended complaint in the case of State of Florida v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, due to the “very substantial resources of the federal government [at their disposal].”
At the same time as the Florida suit was originally filed, Virginia AG Kenneth T. Cuccinelli filed a lawsuit separately in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. According to Cuccinelli, “Virginia is in a unique situation that allows it the standing to file such a suit since Virginia is the only state so far to pass a law protecting its citizens from a government-imposed mandate to buy health insurance.”
In late May, federal attorneys, acting on behalf of HHS, filed a brief in the U.S. District Court of Richmond in Virginia, in an attempt to dismiss Virginia’s lawsuit, arguing that Virginia lacks the standing to bring a suit, as the suit is premature prior to Jan.1, 2014.
This week, Cuccinelli defended his standing to Cardiovascular Business News saying that “the simple matter of the delay and time of three and a half years does not, under Supreme Court precedent, give the U.S. a ripeness issue to knock Virginia’s case out.
Currently, an oral argument on the motion to dismiss Virginia’s case is set for July 1 in the U.S. Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in Richmond.
While Collins’ sentiments could be idyllic, I hope these lawsuits produce truth and justice for the consumers of healthcare: “It is the nature of truth to struggle to the light.”
On these topics, or any others, please feel free to contact me.