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Federal judge allows Florida health care suit to proceed

A judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of Florida [official website] on Thursday denied a motion to dismiss [opinion, PDF] a lawsuit brought by a group of attorneys general challenging the constitutionality of the recently enacted health care reform law [HR 3590 text; JURIST news archive]. The lawsuit [complaint, PDF], filed in March and joined by 20 states [JURIST reports] and the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) [association website; JURIST report], seeks injunctive and declaratory relief against what it alleges are violations of Article I and the Tenth Amendment of the Constitution [text], committed by levying a tax without regard to census data, property or profession, and for invading the sovereignty of the states. The plaintiffs also assert that the law should not be upheld under the Commerce Clause [Cornell LII backgrounder]. In rejecting the motion to dismiss, Judge Roger Vinson described the use of the individual mandate as "unprecedented" and warranting further review. The court also rejected the government's assertion that the suit is improper until the legislation's 2014 effective date, saying that the law's impact is already being felt. Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum [official website] called [press release] the ruling "a victory for the States, small businesses and the American people," while the Obama administration reiterated [WH blog] its belief in the legislation's constitutionality.

A federal judge in Michigan ruled [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] last week that the law is constitutional under the Commerce Clause as it addresses the economic effects of health care decisions, and that it does not represent an unconstitutional direct tax. In August, a federal judge allowed a similar lawsuit filed in Virginia to proceed on narrow grounds [opinion, PDF; JURIST report], addressing only subject matter jurisdiction [Cornell LII backgrounder] and the legal sufficiency of the complaint. Several days later, McCollum cited the ruling in his response [JURIST report] to the Obama administration's motion to dismiss [text, PDF] the Florida challenge, filed in June.

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