Washington judge rules for AG in health care suit

Washington judge rules for AG in health care suit

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[JURIST] King County Superior Court [official website] Judge Sharon Armstrong on Tuesday denied [opinion, PDF] a motion for preliminary injunction against Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna [official website] over his participation in a health care challenge. The motion brought by female citizens and the advocacy group Fuse Washington [advocacy website] alleged that McKenna violated his ethical duties as a lawyer when he submitted a brief to the US Supreme Court [official website] on the multistate lawsuit to overturn the individual mandate of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) [text, PDF; JURIST backgrounder]. The judge ruled that McKenna was acting in his capacity as attorney general when he brought suit in the US Supreme Court for the State of Washington and that he maintained his legal position throughout the litigation process based on his belief that his legal judgment will serve the best interest of the citizens of Washington. Armstrong further added:

Had Attorney General McKenna taken the formal legal position that only severability could protect the interests of the State of Washington and its citizens, and then filed contrary briefing in the federal courts, he would have violated his ethical duty to faithfully represent the interests of the State of Washington and its residents, would have improperly relinquished control over his role in the litigation to other attorneys general, and filed an erroneous brief to the US Supreme Court.

The judge noted that the court lacks authority to second-guess what McKenna’s legal strategy is and that plaintiffs failed to establish that such strategy is arbitrary or capricious.

The lawsuit was initiated earlier this May when more than 90 women filed suit [JURIST report] against McKenna claiming that his opposition of the PPACA interfered with their full access to medical care. In March, the US Supreme Court heard the oral arguments [JURIST report] in the case of United States Department of Health and Human Services v. Florida [materials] challenging the PPACA. In January, 26 states submitted a brief [text, PDF] to the US Supreme Court challenging [JURIST report] the constitutionality of the expansion of Medicaid for the poor and disabled in the PPACA.