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Virginia v. Sebelius
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Virginia v. Sebelius

Commonwealth of Virginia, Ex Rel. Kenneth T. Cuccinelli, II v. Sebelius is a court case in which Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli sued Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius over the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The case is expected to be a major test for healthcare reform, as the suit was filed in a court known for its rapid handling of cases.[1]


Preliminary stages

On March 23, 2010, Cuccinelli filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, alleging that the provision of Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that requires individuals to carry insurance was unconstitutional under the Interstate Commerce Clause. Cuccinelli's lawsuit is separate from the joint suit filed by 13 other attorney generals around the same time. One of the reasons that Cuccinelli chose to pursue a separate action was the fact that Virginia had a law entitled the "Virginia Healthcare Freedom Act" (VHCFA) which specifically prohibits the government from mandating insurance coverage.[2]

On May 24, 2010 the Obama administration filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that states cannot escape federal law simply by passing state laws that contravene federal ones. [3] Cuccinelli filed a counter-motion on June 7, rebutting federal claims and asserting that health insurance was not commerce as intended by the Constitution, and, thus, was not subject to regulation by Congress. [4] A hearing was held on July 2, where similar arguments were put forth by both sides.[1] Judge Henry Hudson ruled against the Obama administration's motion to dismiss on August 2 on the grounds that the notion of government forcing individuals to buy a product had not yet been fully decided in court.[5]

December 13, 2010 ruling

On December 13, 2010, Judge Hudson ruled that the individual mandate portion of the health care bill was unconstitutional. However, he did not block implementation of the law while the case works its way through the court system.[6][7] The decision was appealed by the Justice Department. The 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals granted a request for expedited process from both parties. A court hearing is currently scheduled between May 10 and May 13, 2011 in Richmond. [8] On Feb. 3, Cuccinelli announced that he intended to file an appeal directly with the Supreme Court, bypassing the appellate court level; this request was denied by the Supreme Court.[9]

September 8, 2011 ruling

On September 8, 2011 the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in a decision issued by Judge Diana Gribbon Motz, overturned Judge Hudson's decision. The opinion of the 4th Circuit Court was that The Commonwealth of Virginia lacked subject-matter jurisdiction. Her reasoning behind the decision rests that Virginia's VHCFA is not a proper exercise of "sovereign power." Simply it attempts to immunize Virginia citizens from Federal Law, without any enforcement or action taken by The Commonwealth. Referring to Diamond v. Charles, 476 U.S. 54, 62 (1986), where it was shown that a State has standing to defend the constitutionality of its statute. (emphasis added)". She found that simply creating a law to use as a "smokescreen" for the guise of challenging a Federal Law, did not constitute standing. Thus has remanded the case to the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia with instructions to dismiss the case.[10]

See also

  • National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius
  • Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Cases


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