Judge Declines to Dismiss Virginia Challenge to Health Care Law

August 2, 2010

A federal judge today declined to dismiss Virginia's lawsuit challenging the health care reform law, The Washington Post reports on its Post Now blog.

In his decision, available here, U.S. District Court Judge Henry E. Hudson rejected arguments from Obama administration lawyers that Virginia has no standing to sue, and that the state could not prevail on the merits.

Thirteen other states have joined in a separate suit similar to that filed by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cucinelli, arguing that the law's mandate that citizens purchase health care by 2014 or pay a fine is unconstitutional.

The procedural ruling now paves the way for a full hearing on legal arguments before Hudson in October, The Post reports.

"This is a decision that I think conservative judges will find disturbing," said Walter Dellinger, chief of the appellate practice at O'Melveny & Meyers, during a Center for American Progress press call.

The state of Virginia cannot have standing to challenge a law that imposes no burdens or obligations on the state, Dellinger explained.

Dellinger added that, although the judge "clearly failed to understand how the necessary and proper clause functions," the judge's preliminary analysis of the substantive legal arguments was "not based on anything approaching a full consideration of the issues, which has yet to come."

For more analysis on the constitutionality of the bill, read an ACS Issue Brief by Simon Lazarus, public policy counsel for the National Senior Citizens Law Center.

See also a panel discussion on the health care reform bill's constitutionality from the ACS 2010 National Convention here. We talked with Lazarus about the bill following his participation on the panel.