Florida AG responds to motion to dismiss health care lawsuit

Florida AG responds to motion to dismiss health care lawsuit

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[JURIST] Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum [official website] on Friday filed a response [text, PDF; press release] urging a federal court not to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the newly enacted health care reform law [HR 3590 text; JURIST news archive]. The lawsuit was filed in March and has been joined by 19 other states and the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) [JURIST reports]. It challenges the individual mandate provision of the law, which requires every American to buy health insurance. The response comes after a motion to dismiss [text, PDF] was filed by the Obama administration in June and asserts that the challenge is ripe for adjudication. Even though the individual mandate does not take effect until 2014, McCollum argues that because states would have to begin expending resources to ensure compliance with the mandate, the lawsuit should be allowed to proceed. Additionally, he argues that the states have standing to sue over the mandate because it undermines state police power reserved to them by the Tenth Amendment [Cornell LII backgrounder]. Due to the “manifestly unconstitutional” nature of the individual mandate, and its inability to be severed from the rest of the legislation, the health care reform bill in its entirety should be struck down as unconstitutional, the response states. Further, it went on to detail the reasons why the individual mandate is unconstitutional, explaining:

No enumerated power of Congress permits this assertion of top-down centralized economic power; nor can the Necessary and Proper Clause expand congressional power to support the mandate. Congress’s commerce power extends to regulation of activities having a substantial relation to interstate commerce, but does not allow it to compel inactive individuals to enter a marketplace against their will. Likewise, Congress’s power to tax does not authorize it to compel persons to buy specific insurance products. By exerting such sweeping authority over Americans’ individual decisions, Congress has seized powers denied it under the Tenth Amendment, in violation of the Constitution’s federalist structure and individual rights under the Fifth and Ninth Amendments.

The US District Court for the Northern District of Florida [official website] will hold a hearing on the motion to dismiss September 14.

The response cited Monday’s decision refusing to dismiss another lawsuit [JURIST report] against the individual mandate filed by Virginia in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia [official website]. The court found that Virginia had standing to bring the case because the federal health care law directly contradicted a state law [JURIST report] purporting to prevent the enforcement of a federal mandate, which the state has an interest in defending. The court also held that the lawsuit was “ripe for adjudication” because the effects of the law will be felt in the near future. The Obama administration urged for dismissal in both cases on similar grounds, arguing that even if the states had standing, the law is a constitutional exercise of the Commerce Clause [Cornell LII backgrounder].