Judicial Ac-tea-vism


Yesterday, a conservative district court judge appointed by President Ronald Reagan ruled that the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional, arguing further that, since he believes the mandate is “inextricably linked” to the rest of the measure, the entire law must be unconstitutional. “The act, like a defectively designed watch, needs to be redesigned and reconstructed by the watchmaker,” Judge Roger Vinson wrote. The ruling, however, contradicts 14 other court decisions, the opinion of over 100 law professors, not to mention recent polling showing that Americans want the law to be either protected or expanded. There is also a distinctly political aspect to the ruling. Vinson acknowledged borrowing heavily in his opinion from a brief written by the right-wing group Family Research Council, and he seemed to give a shout-out to the Tea Party in his ruling, which has long targeted health care reforms as “economic Marxism.”

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THE RULING: Vinson ruled that, “[i]f Congress can penalize a passive individual for failing to engage in commerce, the enumeration of powers in the Constitution would have been in vain.” However, as the Center for American Progress’ Ian Millhiser writes, “there is a long line of Supreme Court decisions holding that Congress has broad power to enact laws that substantially affect prices, marketplaces, or other economic transactions. Because health care comprises approximately 17 percent of the national economy, it is impossible to argue that a bill regulating the national health care market does not fit within Congress’s power to regulate commerce.”


After finding the law unconstitutional, Vinson did not issue an injunction to halt the law’s implementation, but wrote that “the federal government should adhere to his declaratory judgment as the functional equivalent of an injunction.” This is quite confusing. It would be wise for states to wait for a Supreme Court ruling, but also under the Affordable Care Act, 12.5 million Americans are eligible to receive benefits right now — for example, three million seniors have already gotten checks to help make prescription drugs more affordable, and 1.8 million young adults who previously did not have insurance are able to get health coverage through their parents’ plan. Should these people immediately surrender their benefits because of Vinson’s ruling?

RED MEAT FOR THE RIGHT: There is undoubtedly a political context to Vinson’s ruling. Almost immediately following passage of the Affordable Care Act, Republicans began agitating for a full repeal. It was a major, stated goal of Republican and Tea Party candidates in the midterm elections, and the House of Representatives passed a repeal as soon as the GOP took control of the chamber. In the Senate, every Republican Senator has signed onto a repeal bill authored by Tea Party favorite Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC). In his ruling, Vinson seemed to offer several nods to this far-right political movement. He referenced the “opposition to a British mandate giving the East India Company a monopoly and imposing a nominal tax on all tea sold in America,” which spoke directly to Tea Party activists across the country. “It’s very exciting. He’s invoking the tea party movement,” noted Mark Meckler, co-founder and national coordinator of the Tea Party Patriots, one of the largest tea party organizing groups. Vinson also “borrowed heavily” from the ultra-conservative Family Research Council in his ruling, which has been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center because of its extensive history of “defaming gays and lesbians.”


A BUMP IN THE ROAD: Though Vinson’s reasoning seems to be faulty, there is potential for further rulings that would reinforce his view. The Department of Justice will appeal Vinson’s ruling, but the case will likely head to the Eleventh Circuit in Atlanta, “considered one of the country’s most conservative appellate benches.” […] This is likely to ultimately reach the Supreme Court. However, Vinson’s reasoning seems to go against the findings of even conservative Supreme Court justices like Antonin Scalia. And while Vinson and Hudson issued high-profile rulings overturning health care reform, two other district court judges have upheld the law, and a total of 14 courts have found challenges to the individual mandate to be either without standing, or baseless. Also, more than 100 law professors recently signed a letter explaining that “the current challenges to the constitutionality of this legislation seek to jettison nearly two centuries of settled constitutional law.” In the past, when Congress has passed historic legislation, there have often been challenges — and victories for the challengers — in lower courts. But these have almost always been overturned by the Supreme Court. […] Luckily, as Millhiser writes, Vinson’s decision is “heavy on rhetoric, light on actual legal reasoning and all but certain to be ignored by higher-court judges who understand their duty to follow the Constitution. … When Vinson is remembered 50 years from now — if anyone remembers him at all — he will be remembered as one of the long line of activist judges who stood athwart history and got run over by it.”


Filed under Antonin Scalia, Congress, Constitution, Family Research Council, humor, Justice Department, parody, politics, Republicans, Ronald Reagan, snark, Supreme Court, television, Wordpress Political Blogs

23 responses to “Judicial Ac-tea-vism

  1. 🙄 It’s so NOT like the monopoly and British tax. Congress and the President KEPT all the blood-sucking (episodically murderous) insurance companies in the mix. 🙄

  2. jeb

    I was flipping around AM radio this morning during my commute and heard a guest on the right-wing Grandy Group extolling this judicial activism. She pointed out how he walked us through the constitution’s adherence to free enterprise in his ruling and how we cannot accept the government imposing their mandates on us vis-a-vis health care and insurance. So, I assume I can ignore the state’s mandate to have automobile insurance now, right?

  3. Yep, if twenty years of fixing watches taught me anything (other than stabing myself through the finger with the little screwdrivers), it’s what to do with the defective watch design. What do you do when the time shows 13 o’clock?! What action do you take when the date window is showing the 12th of never!?! Simple, just take a hammer and kill it. They can’t be rehabilitated. Seems like a lot of chatter around H.B.3 is refering to the females of the species as chattel and “brood mares”. Anyone notice today the democracy blowback from the middle east when the hard-core gopers realize they are loosing a well ensconced dictator. Like the Big Dick used to say, he’d deal with any despotic, murderous regeime as long as they say that they are not commies.

    • jeb

      Even a defective watch is right twice a day which it appears is more than one can say about Roger Vinson.

    • my brother’s father (can you tell that there is no love lost between me and my parental unit?) used to be a watch repairman about a thousand years ago. after he changed professions, he stuck his case with all his old watch stuff in a closet, and i used to love to crawl in there and explore all the fascinating objects.

      • Hey, we got something in common! I ended up working for mine and learning the trade. Folks tend to get the notion (from those old Zales ads) that the old friendly watchmaker is a jolly, happy guy, almost a Santa like icon. In reality, he’s usually a cranky motherfucker pissed off at life bitching about not making a fortune in the business like the diamond guys. One of my favorite monthly trade papers had a regular column by a gal named Marcy who would talk trade stuff, trends, and always a funny tale of her hubby, a watch repairman. My favorite story was projecting his demise and entering into eternity where a figure appears and hands him a bushel basket of tangled hairsprings and says “you can start with these…”

        • i never think of my father as a watchmaker, as he gave that up when i was probably 4 or younger. well, actually, i really don’t think of my father much at all. you pretty much nailed him with that description, which made me laugh. i laughed even harder at the thought of him being confronted with a bushel of tangled hairsprings. 😆

  4. Almost forgot to tell you this one Nonnie. I turned the tube on today and watched the Senator Lady from Maryland, Mikulski, give the most firebrand dressing down to the assembled body on the idiocy of the health insurers to treat “being a woman” as an existing condition, meaning a female the same age and health stause as a male counterpart will pay between 25 to 40% for the same policy but may still be discriminated against more if her husband beats the shit out of her. She was magnifcent. And all this comes in the idiocy of the Party Of God rewriting the book on what constitutes rape. As usual, the semantics can be condensed to “is this going to cost me some money”? PS-was checking the TV tonight trying to find live Eygpt coverage (found none) and while checking the Current channel, they were doing a story about how Broward County is narco central these days. Do you ever see those “pain clinics”? They are selling Oxy and all the high test dope pills as fast as the cash only buyers can pony it up. They pull in drug addicts as far as a thousand miles away that do dope runs to your fair city. That’s why you might see so many out of state plates. And most ironically, while thinking to tell you about all this dope in your back yard, they do a follow-up show, and on this one the dope is in my back yard. They showed three different raids in the Sierra by the state DoJ paramiltary units. Now I know what those black and whie UH-1 helicopters I see flying around here are doing. They say more max strenght weed is being grown there than in Mexico, est. 15 billion street value. All of this just proves how moronic the dope laws are. Funny thing is, when the Volstead Act was repealed, the mob lost interest in bootleging almost overnight.

    • mikulski rocks! she’s so tiny, but she doesn’t pull any punches. i always imagine her walking up to yertle mcconnell and kicking him in the shins.

      hey! we should make a suggestion that my city and yours become sister cities, bound by the shared availability of controlled substances. the “pain clinics” have been here for decades. the worst thing they do is that they make it so much harder for people who really are in pain to get the meds they need, because legitimate doctors are scared to death to prescribe narcotics to their patients who are not abusing drugs.