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Radical, Judicial Activism

By Ron Pollack,


Originally featured on Huffington Post

Yesterday afternoon, Judge Rodger Vinson, who has presided over the 26-state lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act, issued his ruling.

In a decision that constitutes radical judicial activism run amok, Judge Vinson declared the “individual mandate” portion of the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional.

He then took the opportunity to insert his political philosophy into public policy, striking down the entire law! This decision flies in the face of fourteen other decisions, contradicts decades of legal precedent, and could jeopardize families’ health care security. And to make matters worse, this is the very kind of judicial activism that most conservative justices and politicians have argued against for years.

In the recent Virginia ruling, Judge Henry E. Hudson adhered to precedent, narrowly tailoring his opinion by only striking down the individual mandate in December. Judge Vinson, however, took his ruling about ten steps further. He declared that, “Because the individual mandate is unconstitutional and not severable, the entire Act must be declared void.”

Then, in comparing the Affordable Care Act to a watch, Judge Vinson said, “The Act, like a defectively designed watch, needs to be redesigned and reconstructed by the watchmaker.”

With all due respect, Judge Vinson, if anything, the health care system before passage of the Affordable Care Act was a broken watch that forced hardworking Americans to spin their wheels while insurance companies had the right to discriminate against those who are – or have been – sick and to take away coverage if they get sick.

If this decision were allowed to stand, it would have devastating consequences for America’s families.

Children with pre-existing conditions would once again be denied access to health care; insurers could take away health coverage and reinstate lifetime limits on coverage; small businesses would once again be priced out of the market; and seniors would lose their access to no-cost preventive services and help with the cost of prescription drugs.

If that’s not enough, consider this: Insurance companies could continue to arbitrarily jack up premiums without meaningful oversight, all the while using more and more of your money to line CEOs pockets instead of spending it on actual health care.

While we are extremely disappointed with this activist ruling, we’re not all that surprised.

Instead of filing the lawsuit in Tallahassee, the capital of Florida, then-Attorney General Bill McCollum chose to file the suit in Pensacola, where three out of three sitting federal judges were appointed by Republican Presidents. By going forum shopping, Attorney General Bill McCollum all but guaranteed this outcome.

We are confident, as this and other cases are decided on appeal, that the Affordable Care Act will be upheld in its entirety. We further expect that implementation of the law will continue uninterrupted, and, as a result, our nation will move much closer to the achievement of high-quality, affordable health coverage and care for all Americans.