(UPDATED) Federal Judge Rules Against Health Reform Law


This post was updated on 12/13/10, 7:30pm EST

Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli of Virginia is having a good day. Cuccinelli filed a case against the health care reform law earlier this year claiming the law was unconstitutional; this morning, a federal judge in Virginia agreed, in part. Judge Hudson (appointed by President George W. Bush) ruled that the law’s central provision mandating that individuals purchase health insurance “exceeded the regulatory authority granted to Congress under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution.”

The federal government did not see things the same way. From the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

Lawyers for the Department of Justice argued that Congress has the right to regulate health care because every American at one time or another will participate in the system. Unpaid medical costs amount to $43 billion a year.

Cuccinelli is one of 20 Attorneys General around the country (all but one are Republican) who filed lawsuits against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Thus far, reports the New York Times:

Judge Hudson is the third district court judge to reach a determination on the merits in one of the two dozen lawsuits filed against the health care law. The others — in Detroit and Lynchburg, Va. — have upheld the law.

The National Women’s Law Center’s co-President, Marcia D. Greenberger, in a statement distributed this afternoon calls the decision “legally incorrect and harmful to women if affirmed” but says,

“Fortunately Judge Hudson’s ruling today is not the final word on the constitutionality of a key aspect of the new health care law.  It should be overturned promptly to protect millions of women and their families in Virginia and beyond who are already reaping tangible benefits from the Affordable Care Act.  For them—especially those who are uninsured and have pre-existing conditions—this decision is not an abstract constitutional debate.”

The New York Times notes, however, that Judge Hudson is following in a long line of Republican anti-Obama administration rulings. It’s why rulings like this one are being seen more as a “political assault” against the White House than an honest assessment of and decision about a law’s merits.

The opinion by Judge Hudson, who has a long history in Republican politics in northern Virginia, continued a partisan pattern in the health care cases. Thus far, judges appointed by Republican presidents have ruled consistently against the Obama administration while Democratic appointees have found for it.

Media Matters, writing earlier this year about Judge Hudson’s long standing ties to the GOP, notes that legal experts “from across the political specrtrum” have said that the health reform law’s central tenet is not unconstitutional.

Cuccinelli’s lawsuit also requested that the law be immediately blocked from implementation in his state. However, Judge Hudson denied the petition to halt the law from being implemented.

The federal government will likely appeal the decision.

Like this story? Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.