March 1 2011
Experts agree: Judge Roger Vinson comes out on top again. After taking too much time and using a strange approach, the federal government looked slow and cowardly in their "Motion to Clarify." But Judge Vinson answered with more than a clarification.
In this 20-page order, Vinson stayed his January-31 ruling upon the condition that the federal government file for expedited appeal within the next seven days. In one fell swoop, he defends his decision that the whole of ObamaCare is unconstitutional, criticizes defendants for their slow and inappropriate response, and pushes the pace for the filing of an appeal. Well done.
Here's how legal experts are weighing in on today's order:
Professor Ilya Somin, George Mason Law:
There is nothing unusual about this ruling. Staying a district court decision pending appeal is standard practice. The only reason why this wasn't done earlier in this case is that the Justice Department for some reason chose not to ask for a stay right after Judge Vinson issued his initial decision, which is also the usual practice when the government loses a case like this in district court.
Professor Randy Barnett, Georgetown Law:
The government's motion to "clarify" gave Judge Vinson the opportunity to persuasively defend his initial ruling from criticism, while effectively compelling a fast-track appeal to the Eleventh Circuit. Another masterful opinion from a heroic judge.
Professor Stephen Presser, Northwestern Law:
[Judge Vinson] has recognized the importance of a speedy and final resolution by a higher court of the important legal issue involved, but the most important thing in his order issued today is his clear and ringing reiteration of what led him to reject the Act. As the judge put it today, the act "could not be reconciled with a federal government of limited and enumerated powers." For him to uphold the Constitutionality of the Act, the judge reminded us, "would have violated the fundamental and foundational principles upon which the Constitution was based: a federal government with limited enumerated powers which can only exercise those specific powers granted to it." The friends of the Constitution can now only hope that the Eleventh Circuit or the United States Supreme Court will reach the same sensible conclusion.
Ilya Shapiro, Cato Institute:
Judge Vinson's latest ruling exposes the government's disingenuousness with respect to his earlier invalidation of the entirety of Obamacare. He has now put its feet to the fire, making clear that of the government doesn't appeal -- and ask for expedited appeal -- within a week, it must stop implementation of Obamacare. Not that this clarification was necessary under ordinary principles of judicial process; federal courts do not issue advisory opinions, so his previous declaratory judgment was binding on the parties to the 26-state lawsuit. In all, this is a victory for those of us who want the courts to make clear that the federal government, under the guise of regulating commerce, can't force people to buy stuff.
So, defendants, if you didn't get it the first time, it's been spelled out. You lost this battle. Now the focus moves to the Eleventh Circuit. Stay tuned to HealthCareLawsuits.org for the latest.