Judge Voids Key Element of Obama Health Care Law

As previously reported on our blog, there have been several legal challenges by U.S. states against President Obama’s health care reform law. The challenges to the health care law are aiming for an ultimate hearing before the United States Supreme Court.

On Monday challengers came a step closer to having such a hearing when a federal judge in Virginia became the first judge to invalidate any part of the sprawling act, ensuring that appellate courts will receive contradictory opinions from lower courts.

The judge, Henry E. Hudson of Federal District Court in Richmond, ruled that the keystone provision in the Obama health care law is unconstitutional. He said the law’s requirement that most Americans obtain insurance exceeded the regulatory authority granted to Congress under the Commerce Clause.

Judge Hudson, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, declined the plaintiff’s request to suspend the act’s implementation pending appeal, meaning there should be no immediate effect on its rollout.

In a 42-page opinion, Judge Hudson wrote: “Neither the Supreme Court nor any federal circuit court of appeals has extended Commerce Clause powers to compel an individual to involuntarily enter the stream of commerce by purchasing a commodity in the private market.” Allowing Congress to exert such authority, he said, “would invite unbridled exercise of federal police powers.”

Judge Hudson is the third district court judge to reach a determination on the merits in one of the two dozen lawsuits challenging the health care law. The other judges, in Detroit and Lynchburg, Va., have upheld the law. Lawyers say the appellate process could last another two years before the Supreme Court settles the dispute.

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Reinhard von Hennigs