Last month, Federal District Court Judge Roger Vinson declared the individual mandate, that all buy insurance or pay a penalty, unconstitutional. The court further held that the entire law was unconstitutional as the individual mandate could not be severed from the rest of the law.
Thereafter, the federal government filed a Motion for Clarification, basically asking the court to “clarify” the ruling and explain whether the court meant that the administration should stop implementing the law.
This was probably not a good idea. Today, Judge Vinson issued his order, and really took the government to task.
The government’s argument boiled down to, “we are not sure whether you meant for us to stop implementing Obamacare, so please tell us what you meant.” This gets a bit technical here, so bear with me.
The original order did not contain an injunction prohibiting further implementation. The government seized upon this fact, and argued that it could proceed as usual. In a stinging rebuke of this position, Judge Vinson said, beginning at page 11,
The [government] expressly assured the court that, in light of the ‘long-standing presumption that a declaratory judgment provides adequate relief as against an executive officer, as it will not be presumed that that officer will ignore the judgment of the Court, any declaratory judgment in the plaintiffs’ favor “would [ ] be adequate to vindicate [the plaintiffs’] claims.
Consequently, there was no need to discuss and apply the four-factor test to determine if injunctive relief was appropriate because the [government] had confirmed that they would ‘not . . . ignore the judgment of the Court’ and that my ‘declaratory judgment would [ ] be adequate’. [emphasis supplied]
Literal translation…I didn’t need to issue an injunction because you told me you would honor my ruling, and, I believed you. Ouch.
Judge Vinson did, however, stay his order, and will permit the government to continue to implement Obamacare, but only if the government files a notice of appeal with 7 days, and requests that this matter be heard on an expedited basis.
The sooner this issue is finally decided by the Supreme Court, the better off the entire nation will be. And yet, it has been more than one month from the entry of my order and judgment and still the [government has] not filed their notice of appeal. (page 18)
To me, at least, it is abundantly clear that Judge Vinson is tired of the government’s overall foot dragging on a case of this importance. And, as a practical matter, it is hard to disagree with the judge’s assessment.