Heartland Legal Expert Exposes Flaw in Virginia Obamacare Ruling

Published September 15, 2011

 Fourth Circuit’s Factual Error Throws Last Week’s Decision in Doubt

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals made a “rookie” error last week when it ruled the Commonwealth of Virginia was not a proper party to challenge the constitutionality of the Obamacare bill’s individual mandate provision requiring all Americans to buy health insurance.

The court found President Barack Obama signed his health care overhaul bill into law on March 23, 2010, and, a day later, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell signed a law providing no Virginia resident could be required to buy health insurance. The court found the Virginia law was a naked attempt to “nullify” an existing federal law, not enough to give it “standing” to sue.

The ruling is wrong on the facts. McDonnell signed the Virginia law nearly two weeks before Obama signed Obamacare. It was only McDonnell’s signing ceremony that came afterward. So the court had it exactly backwards – rather than Virginia trying to nullify the federal law, the feds were trying to nullify the Virginia law.

The court’s erroneous fact-finding on this timing issue was the linchpin of its ruling and may serve as reason to overturn it if Virginia decides to pursue the matter.

Maureen Martin, J.D., senior fellow for legal affairs at The Heartland Institute, and Ben Domenech, Heartland’s research fellow for health care policy, noticed the error immediately – but wanted to investigate further to confirm it in official state records. They broke the story in the Heartlander Wednesday afternoon.

Martin and Domenech are available to talk about this development on your program. To book them, please contact Media Specialist Tammy Nash at [email protected] and 312/377-4000 or Communications Director Jim Lakely at [email protected] and 312/377-4000.