Judge Vinson’s Redux

Did the Florida decision block health reform immediately?  Nationwide?  We’ve talked about this before, and on Feb. 23 the DoJ asked Judge Vinson to “clarify” his ruling.

Today he did – suspending his ruling for seven days to give the government time to file an appeal to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.  His 20-page ruling expressed annoyance that the feds hadn’t already given up on health reform:

“While I believe that my order was as clear and unambiguous as it could be, it is possible that the defendants may have perhaps been confused or misunderstood its import.” (at 1)

Judge Vinson’s takes advantage of this rare opportunity to try to re-write some of the weaker sections of his prior opinion.  Many commenters had chided him for misunderstanding the necessary and proper clause, so that topic receives a lot of attention this time.  He also beefs up the discussion on severability.  It’s really quite extraordinary for a federal district court judge to get a second chance like this before the appeal.  His final conclusion:

“So to “clarify” my order and judgment: The individual mandate was declared unconstitutional. Because that “essential” provision was unseverable from the rest of the Act, the entire legislation was void.” (at 14)

That includes many unrelated provisions (such as Medicare Part C changes and biological exclusivity & biosimilar pathway; full list here)

Does this ruling apply outside of Florida?  The Judge acknowledges (at 17-18) that the Michigan court ruled the law constitutional, and yet Michigan is a party to the Florida suit.  Which judge wins on this one?  Judge Vinson doesn’t say, but “in light of all this uncertainty, it would be difficult to deny the defendants a stay pending appeal.”   (at 18) Judge Vinson blinked.



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