Constitutional Law

Judge Strikes Down Part of Health Care Law

A federal judge in Virginia has struck down the insurance mandate in the new health care law.

The ruling (PDF) by U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson is the first to strike down any part of the law, CNN reports. The government has won two other rulings on the merits in different cases in Detroit and Lynchburg, Va.

The law requires law individuals to obtain health insurance by 2014 or pay a fine, the Washington Post reports in its story on the ruling, Virginia v. Sebelius.

Hudson ruled Congress had no authority under the commerce clause to require insurance coverage, the New York Times reports. The judge, however, did not stay implementation of the law pending appeal.

The coverage requirement “appears to forge new ground and extends the commerce clause powers beyond its current high water mark,” 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.” An individual decision to purchase or decline insurance, he said, is beyond the historical reach of the clause.

The Times says Hudson’s ruling is “striking given that only nine months ago prominent law professors were dismissing the constitutional claims as just north of frivolous.”

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