Judge allows Virginia's healthcare reform suit into court

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Federal District Court Judge Henry E. Hudson ruled that the Commonwealth of Virginia has standing to bring its lawsuit seeking to invalidate the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and denied the federal government’s motion to dismiss the commonwealth’s suit.

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and his legal team had their first opportunity in court on July 1, arguing that Virginia’s lawsuit was a valid challenge of the federal healthcare act and that the court should not dismiss the case as the federal government had requested.

The U.S. Department of Justice argued that Virginia lacked the standing to bring a suit, that the suit is premature and that the federal government had the power under the U.S. Constitution to mandate that citizens be covered by government-approved health insurance or pay a monetary penalty.

In denying the motion to dismiss, Judge Hudson found that Virginia had alleged a legally recognized injury to its sovereignty, given the government’s assertion that the federal law invalidates a Virginia law, the HealthCare Freedom Act. In addressing the issue of Virginia’s statute, the court recognized that the “mere existence of the lawfully-enacted [Virginia] statute is sufficient to trigger the duty of the Attorney General of Virginia to defend the law and the associated sovereign power to enact it.”

Hudson also found that even though the federal insurance mandate doesn’t take effect until 2014, the case is ripe because a conflict of the laws is certain to occur.

“No reported case from any federal appellate court has extended the Commerce Clause or Tax Clause to include the regulation of a person’s decision not to purchase a product, notwithstanding its effect on interstate commerce,” the judge remarked.

The case is Commonwealth of Virginia v. Kathleen Sebelius in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, in Richmond. A summary judgment hearing is scheduled for Oct. 18 to decide if the federal healthcare law is unconstitutional.