Pensacola Federal Judge Strikes Down Health Care Law (With Full Ruling Text)

January 31, 2011

The federal health care law requiring Americans to buy health insurance unlawfully expands the powers to Congress by forcing consumers to buy something they may not want, a Florida federal judge “reluctantly” ruled  Monday in Pensacola in a challenge by Florida and 25 other states.

U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson rejected the lynchpin of federal efforts to change the way health care is delivered in the United States, saying Congress cannot compel people to purchase health insurance.

“It is difficult to imagine that a nation which began, at least in part, as the result of opposition to a British mandate giving the East India Company a monopoly and imposing a nominal tax on all tea sold in America would have set out to create a government with the power to force people to buy tea in the first place,” Vinson wrote in ruling invalid the required purchase of health insurance.

“I must reluctantly conclude that Congress exceeded the bounds of its authority in passing the act with the individual mandate,” Vinson wrote.

Despite finding the law unconstitutional, Vinson refused a request by Florida and other states to stop the federal government from moving forward while the case winds its way through an appellate process that will likely lead to the U.S. Supreme Court. Keeping the law in effect, pending appeals, means sections already in force will continue to be. The White House said it will proceed with planning for the law to go into effect.

In December, Vinson heard three hours of testimony in the lawsuit, with the plaintiffs – two private citizens and the National Federation of Independent Business, in addition to the 26 states – that the sweeping change to the $2.5 trillion U.S. health-care system oversteps constitutional limits on federal power and would force massive spending on hard-pressed state governments.

Vinson said on Monday that the secondary complaint of the states’- that the law would greatly expand their obligation to pay for Medicaid patients – was legitimately within the federal government’s reach. But the individual mandate was clearly not, he said.

“It should be emphasized that while the individual mandate was clearly “necessary and essential” to the Act as drafted, it is not “necessary and essential” to health care reform in general,” Vinson wrote. “It is undisputed that there are various other (Constitutional) ways to accomplish what Congress wanted to do.”

Florida was the lead plaintiff among the states in the suit, which was started by former Attorney General Bill McCollum, who filed it the day after the law passed. The current attorney general, Pam Bondi, inherited the case – but did so enthusiastically, campaigning on a promise to continue it.

“We all know we need health care reform; this is not the way to do it,” Bondi said after Vinson’s ruling. “It’s unconstitutional. It’s a violation of our rights… It’s about our liberty. It’s about more than health care.”

Vinson’s ruling was immediately hailed by groups that have called the law, dubbed by critics as “ObamaCare,” an overreach.

“ObamaCare is an unprecedented and unconstitutional infringement on the liberty of the American people,” Gov. Rick Scott said in a statement released immediately after the ruling. “Patients should have more control over health care decisions than a federal government that is spending money faster than it can be printed.”

Vinson’s ruling is the second time a federal judge has ruled against all or portions of the law enacted by Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama in March 2010. A federal judge in Virginia struck down the measure, also ruling that the individual mandate was unconstitutional. Federal officials, however, pointed out that the record is mixed – the law has also been upheld in a couple of other challenges.

Still, critics of the law said Vinson’s ruling should be a signal for Congress to readdress the issue.

“With two straight federal courts ruling ObamaCare unconstitutional this sends a clear message to the United States Senate that it should follow the action of the House and repeal the health care law,” Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island said in a statement.

“Now small business owners can plan on creating jobs rather than figure out how to comply with the federal health care act,” said Bill Herrle, Florida director for the National Federatation of Independent Business.

U.S. Department of Justice officials said they will appeal to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, which has jurisdiction over cases originating in Florida, Georgia and Alabama.

“We strongly disagree with the court’s ruling today and continue to believe – as other federal courts have found – that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional,” DOJ spokesperson Tracy Schmaler said. “There is clear and well-established legal precedent that Congress acted within its constitutional authority in passing this law and we are confident that we will ultimately prevail on appeal.”

The Center for American Progress, a liberal leaning Washington, D.C.-based group also blasted Vinson’s ruling as “judicial activism,” flipping a common Republican refrain when judges rule against legislation that has been passed by legislative bodies. That charge is common in Florida where Republican lawmakers have repeatedly railed against judges who invalidate laws passed by elected officials.

“For all of my colleagues on the conservative side who criticized activist judges for their lack of deference to the legislative and executive branches of government, I hope they’ll be equally as critical of this decision,” said CAP Chief Operating Officer Needra Tanden, who worked on crafting the legislation.

Walter Dellinger, chair of the Appellate Practice at the Los Angeles-based O’Melveny & Meyers law firm, added that Vinson’s decision was reminiscent of early legal verdicts against the Social Security Act in the 1930s.

“I think it will fare no better,” Dellinger said. “Lower courts routinely strike down landmark legislation before it’s upheld,” he said, noting cases involving Social Security, racial segregation and the Voting Rights Act.

“Under this view, Congress has no power to enact a minimum wage,” he added.


39 Responses to “Pensacola Federal Judge Strikes Down Health Care Law (With Full Ruling Text)”

  1. David Huie Green on February 7th, 2011 2:12 pm

    I assume if the good Lord isn’t ready for you, nobody can send you His way.

  2. PolythenePam on February 6th, 2011 9:31 pm

    Personally I’d rather the good Lord take me when he’s ready , not when the governments says it’s time to go.

    Nothing humorous in any of this…….

  3. David Huie Green on February 6th, 2011 2:35 pm

    i’ve noticed ovens are becoming more popular, with cremation. don’t see it myself, better to feed the crabs, fish or worms

  4. PolythenePam on February 6th, 2011 12:29 pm

    David not thinking it’s Soylent Green

    A bunch of old geezers in congress DO exclude themselves in many ways from what is applicable to the rest of us. End of life counseling will lean toward what is cost effective for the government, doesn’t mean you cant say no for NOW. I SAID its a slippery slope. A friend of mines mother passed away last year , the doctor told my friend, if your mother had insurance we could prescribe this “xxx” which is better , but unfortunately medicaid/medicare wont pay for it. It would be more likely to slow this cancer down with less harsh side effects. So don’t try to convince me that the wheels aren’t already turning , or that I should think that we aren’t heading towards that slope.

    Pam who doesn’t want to end in an OVEN! ! !

  5. David Huie Green on February 5th, 2011 8:25 pm

    “Healing and forgiveness are both received the same way, by faith, and both have results that can be seen outwardly.”

    —and yet not all Christians are healed, not even Paul, not Timothy, not hundreds of millions of others through the ages.

    Further, if healing were only granted to Christians, then God would be withholding healing from doubters and unbelievers.

    In the Bible there were examples of people being healed not for their own faith but for the faith of the people who brought them or the father who asked for it or even for the centurion who requested it. Thus, all illness would be the fault of those who did not offer intercessory prayer. Heartless?

    David thinking experience shows
    there are flaws in the theology as expressed

  6. Dr. Kevin R.Linam on February 5th, 2011 4:58 pm

    Forgiveness & Healing were provided together. Jesus took our sin and our sickness and disease at the same time on the cross – they were paid for at the same time, both are freely ours to obtain. Complete restoration, Spirit, Soul and Body. Who forgives all your iniquities; who heals all your diseases; Psalm 103:3 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. Isaiah 53.5 “Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise, take up your bed and walk’?”Mark 2:9 Healing and forgiveness are both received the same way, by faith, and both have results that can be seen outwardly.

    I have had one hospital stay in 52 years-to replace a hip worn out from 18 years of playing football and heavy weightlifting! Jesus is still my healer and I do believe in using doctors- but prayers have cured me of sickness/disease doctors could not heal! By his stripes we are healed! Thank you Lord Jesus!!

  7. David Huie Green on February 5th, 2011 1:39 pm

    “How far is that from advising restricting or withdrawing health care from those who are no longer productive citizens. How far is that from making termination at a specific age mandatory? ”

    Is it really likely a bunch of old geezers in Congress will write shortened death dates for themselves? Even if they were to exempt themselves while in Congress, they would have to face the real world if voted out of office.

    End of life decisions aren’t really “ending life decisions” but rather how they want to be treated in such instances.

    I knew a woman who had a Do Not Resuscitate order above her bed and all over the place. She knew the bones in her ribcage were so brittle that CPR would just be a painful waste of time. Her breathing stopped while on the way to Pensacola in an ambulance and her grand-daughter insisted they ignore the DNR and do CPR.

    As far as I am concerned, they tortured her in her last seconds of life to satisfy someone else’s wishes She still brags about what she did for her grandmother. I don’t want to tell her she made an old lady suffer for no good reason.

    David not thinking it’s Soylent Green

  8. David Huie Green on February 5th, 2011 1:29 pm

    “Jesus is the only answer for whatever your sickness is, body, mind, soul and spirit!!”

    Obviously not. Christians still get sick and die.

    Jesus can save the soul but the Lord gave us physicians to help with the other stuff. Even Paul handed out prescriptions for stomach troubles.

    David without wine

  9. PolythenePam on February 4th, 2011 11:45 pm

    Section 1233, end of life counseling,the government will happily pay for the doctor to counsel you on your end of life wishes, pointing you in the direction that will ultimately be the most “sensible financial choice” for the governments sake. After all the government will be providing health care. How far is that from advising restricting or withdrawing health care from those who are no longer productive citizens. How far is that from making termination at a specific age mandatory? All of this sound farfetched to you? When you agree to this health care bill you set your foot on a very slippery slope. Hitler sent the Jews to the ovens by taking away their freedom and liberty one step at a time.

    Just thinking…….

  10. Dr. Kevin R.Linam on February 4th, 2011 10:55 pm

    Jesus is the only answer for whatever your sickness is, body, mind, soul and spirit!!
    Turn to the Lord while you can!!!

  11. JUDY MASEK on February 2nd, 2011 4:00 pm

    so, mr bethea….just out of curiosity, if the United States doesnt currently offer “the best medical care” (in the world), what other country do you think surpasses us?

  12. Sara on February 2nd, 2011 3:56 pm

    Big waste of time and money to fight it! It will go through. All you Republicans need to remember we had to sit back and take all the crap Bush dished out. Obama was elected by a wide majority, now it is our turn to have our way. You had your 8 years!

  13. David Huie Green on February 1st, 2011 10:51 pm

    I always THINK I’m being sensible–unless I’m just playing and those rare times are usually obvious.
    I imagine others do too.

  14. Jerry on February 1st, 2011 7:19 pm

    David, yours is one sensible voice – while many others are shouting nonsense, thinking they are saying something worthwhile – on both sides.

  15. David Huie Green on February 1st, 2011 5:16 pm

    FROM PAGE 49:
    “If Congress asserts power that exceeds its enumerated
    powers, then it is unconstitutional, regardless of the purported uniqueness of the
    context in which it is being asserted.”

    If the Speaker of the House of Representatives had considered the question serious when asked which enumerated power authorized what they were trying to do, they might have crafted lawful health care reform. Instead, Ms Pelosi is reported to have asked, “Are you serious??? Are you serious??” leaving the impression she didn’t consider it important.

    David wondering how many are serous
    about upholding the Constitution

  16. concerned citizen on February 1st, 2011 1:33 pm

    Thank you Judge Vinson for showing that there is still some sanity at the Federal level.. We are facing TRILLIONS, not billions in debt to fund this bill.. If you were to line up hundred dollar bills end to end to pay for this, the line would go to the moon and back twice..

  17. You Who on February 1st, 2011 12:25 pm

    I’m for the overturning of the law.The concept of everybody having insurance is a good idea but not at this cost. The Doctors/Hospitals and of course the Lawerys are charging way to much and you don’t here about them going down on their rates. We have seen our heath insurance sky rocket in the past ten years with no end in sight. Most of us can’t afford the cost now and with all the co-pays and deductables going up every year we are all going to sink: except that is the Doctors/Hospitals and the Lawerys who are just getting richer everyday. They tell us this law will make the cost go down Have you ever seen anything the Government gets involve in go down in cost. If you answer YES then you are, my guess a Politician/Crook With all the Government regulations that the Doctor/Hospitals have to abide by it’s no wonder that a Doctor visit doesn’t cost 10 time’s more then what we are paying

  18. David Huie Green on February 1st, 2011 12:12 pm

    “the Supreme Court has summarized and defined the current state of the law under the Commerce Clause, and it has uniformly and consistently declared that it applies to “three broad categories of activity.” – - – It has further described the third category as “the power to regulate those activities having a substantial relation to interstate commerce.” – - – Without doubt, existing case law thus extends only to those “activities” that have a substantial relationship to, or substantially affect, interstate commerce.

    “I am required to interpret this law as the Supreme Court presently defines it. Only the Supreme Court can redefine it or expand it further – - – a point implicitly made by one of the defendants’ own cited authorities”

    Interesting point. Lower courts do not have the authority to overturn the rulings of the Supreme Court (If they did, it wouldn’t be supreme.).

    Thus, if Judge Vinson had done so, he would have overruled the Supreme Court. They are still free to overrule him.

    David for reason

  19. David Huie Green on February 1st, 2011 10:22 am

    ” I don’t mind having to pay extra for all to have something.”

    Thank you. If you pay enough, nobody else will have to do so. On behalf of the rest of the population, we thank you.

    Until you do, I will keep paying for what insurance I have. I suspect you mean you don’t mind paying more as long as everybody else has to do it too, that they should be forced to do what you and I consider right. Even in that, you beat a bunch of people who simply thought health care reform would mean health care would become cheaper or even free–that the GOVERNMENT would pay for it, never thinking where funding would originate.

    Even though you believe it would be a good thing and everybody should have to pay for it, please consider what it would do to those who refused to follow your orders. They would be fined. If they did not pay the fines, their property would be confiscated, their businesses (if any) shut down and ultimately they would be jailed–at which point they would receive free health care.

    Even if it is the best thing in the world, there is no reason to throw out the Constitution to have it. Convince people to amend the Constitution so you can compel them to get with the program.

    David for legality

  20. Sweetie on February 1st, 2011 10:17 am

    Wow….just listening to all of you gives me a headache. Why can’t things just be down to earth and simple. Oh, yeah, too many chiefs and not enough indians. Or, better yet, the indians aren’t speaking out enough. I don’t really know. I just believe that we should work together. But, I also believe that if I work really hard so my elderly life can be easier, I shouldn’t have to give it up to those who have never worked. But, while I am working, taxes that come out of my pay can go to the best interest of all. It is time for someone in the right position to just say NO and declare some things unconstitutional. This whole thing is just very confusing. Glad for the really educated ones to decide.

  21. Texas Dem on February 1st, 2011 9:31 am

    Sometimes I just kick back and look at the news and read all the stuff that is being said about how this country is going into the gutter and I just get sad. Regardless of what Obama do or try to do for the betterment of this country he gets met with STUPID opposition. The healtcare bill is loaded with good things, but all SOME people seem to care about is that they are required to pay for it. I haven’t read all the bill but at the same time, I don’t mind having to pay extra for all to have something. Its not about hand outs to freeloaders its about caring for your fellow american. Like the one guy said, if you don’t want to pay for car insurance, don’t drive. If you don’t want to pay for health insurance, don’t get sick..Although republican usa, don’t see how you can choose not to get sick…I bet this same thing was happening in American when we wanted to get rid of slavery, and when we first wanted medicaid and social security..oops “social” is a terrible word….it must be bad…is social security bad? I mean, if you have a job, you have to pay in on it right..its the law…it must be unconstitutional to make me pay in on social security…right?

  22. A COncerned Republican on January 31st, 2011 11:41 pm

    Bryan Bethea your comments are a reflection of the perverse thinking that America has bought into by giving undocumented workers section 8 housing, free medical care, welfare, tax-deductible child-care they and those that choose to simply not find work can collect unemployment or disability and each April at tax time they get a refund or pay no federal tax…meanwhile the small businesses that power the economy of the US is burdened paying into this health care system on top of outrageous tax rates. If is is so fair why did your master obama exempt some labour unions to not have to pay in? Judge Vinson basically said there are other alternatives than the individual mandate but you are too blind to see or care, obama said the american people are too ignorant to know what they want you will learn to like it does that sound like by the people for the people? If universal health care is so great why are some european nations considering privatizing part of there health care system?

  23. David Huie Green on January 31st, 2011 11:19 pm

    ” the judge is a well known opponent of the health care bill, even though the case was deliberately filed in Pensacola precisely so this very judge could offer his opinion, even though the 26 states participating in the case have Republican attorneys general”

    Well known How? What had he said or done prior to this ruling to show prejudice on the case?

    If it does turn out that the law was unconstitutional, does that mean only Republicans care about the Constitution?

    Democratic David

  24. David Huie Green on January 31st, 2011 11:14 pm

    ” It’s apparent the supreme court justices ruling against the Health Care bill haven’t actually read it. The section they’re using to deem it “unconstitutional” doesn’t make it so that people have to buy health care, but rather choose between private or a government program.

    “Striking down the entire act because of one part is also stupid beyond all compare”

    It’s apparent you haven’t read the ruling. Please do so. He writes well.

    It also seems you haven’t read the article or you wouldn’t think it was a supreme court ruling.

    You don’t have to agree with his reasoning but it might be helpful to actually see what it was.

    He made it clear both sides declared the mandatory purchase of insurance to be critical to the entire thing, thus if that were unconstitutional, the bill was unconstitutional and/or useless. He reviewed all pertinent rulings back to Chief Justice Marshal and up to the most recent rulings. He did not just say I WANT IT MY WAY AND I’LL HAVE IT MY WAY. He said the Commerce Clause doesn’t give the federal government that much power.

    The bill won’t work unless all Americans are forced to take insurance. Otherwise you could just wait until you were sick and get insurance, drop it when you were well and bankrupt the insurance companies since they would have to insure you with preexisting conditions.

    David for reading and then griping
    if still disagreeing

  25. Bob on January 31st, 2011 8:21 pm

    Great decision on the part of Judge Vinson. The entire system needs more like him. This will soon be the largest factor in the return of people to the work place. Empoyers that have to provide this , added to what they are already burdened with will just stand with their backs to the wall and just say NO. People need to realize that the days of the freeloaders will soon come to an end, then and only then will this country come back to life.

  26. Name (required) on January 31st, 2011 7:26 pm


    Hope the supreme court upholds the decision…

    To the earlier posters;

    – Kristoffer Martin; this was the DISTRICT court, not the SUPREME court…

    – charles natkins; You can not be ‘covered’ by the health care law that was overturned today… it does not go into effect until 2014.

    – hamlet; No, mandatory car insurance is a requirement if you CHOOSE to drive. Forcing citizens to purchase health care insurance would not be an option… this is why it is unconstitutional.

  27. John Parker on January 31st, 2011 7:20 pm

    Bryan Bethea,

    Good comments and I think you are right on the mark!!!

  28. think it through on January 31st, 2011 6:39 pm

    A good thing, let’s have more of it!

  29. Bryan Bethea on January 31st, 2011 6:11 pm

    And the gloating begins… even though the judge is a well known opponent of the health care bill, even though the case was deliberately filed in Pensacola precisely so this very judge could offer his opinion, even though the 26 states participating in the case have Republican attorneys general. Somehow that takes the luster off the decision in my opinion. This highly partisan example of judicial activism is far from over. In fact, Judge Vinson did a favor to those of us who think this law is a good idea. He declared the entire law unconstitutional instead of finding key portions of it unconstitutional. By doing so he has set the stage for higher appellate courts to easily reverse his decision in one fell swoop, which is exactly what will happen.

    It’s time for the Party of Palin (formerly known as the Republican Party) to stop drinking the kool-aid and start accepting that the USA no longer has the best medical care in the world. That hasn’t been true for nearly 30 years. We CAN have the best care in the world again, but not by burying our heads in the sand and doing nothing. I applaud the president for at least trying to do something to make things better while the Palin Party blissfully pretends that nothing is wrong.

  30. Kristoffer Martin on January 31st, 2011 5:40 pm

    Ridiculous. It’s apparent the supreme court justices ruling against the Health Care bill haven’t actually read it. The section they’re using to deem it “unconstitutional” doesn’t make it so that people have to buy health care, but rather choose between private or a government program.

    Striking down the entire act because of one part is also stupid beyond all compare. By doing so it gives renewed license to the current private health insurance companies to rape and discard their subscribers at will, based on fraudulent claims made against those who carry their insurance.

    This is a scam, people with high stakes in these companies pushing for a repeal of an otherwise sound act.

  31. T.K. aka The DODGE MAN on January 31st, 2011 4:21 pm

    Sorry free loaders and people who work the system!!!! You know who you are!! The give it to me and I dont want to pay for it club just got shot down!!!

  32. RW on January 31st, 2011 4:17 pm

    Well, Hamlet you do not have to buy car or boat insurance, because you are not required to own one. The government can not mandate you to buy a insurance or a service just because you are breathing.

  33. huh on January 31st, 2011 4:13 pm

    No more car insurance!

  34. hamlet on January 31st, 2011 3:49 pm

    Does this mean I don’t have to have car insurance as required by law or buy auto, boat or trailer tags as required by law, it’s the same thing.

  35. LULU on January 31st, 2011 3:24 pm

    Yippee!! Smart Judge!!

  36. Republican on January 31st, 2011 3:24 pm

    Surprise, Surprise! Right down party lines!!!

  37. Buddy on January 31st, 2011 2:54 pm

    Thank God that there are a few decent law abiding judges left. Kudos to you Judge for a constitutional ruling.

  38. charles natkins on January 31st, 2011 2:34 pm

    I have a physical tomorrow and I am covered by the health care bill. Do I cancel?


  39. xpeecee on January 31st, 2011 2:29 pm

    Way to go, Judge Roger Vinson!!!

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