Judge Vinson’s Master Stroke

U.S. district judge Roger Vinson is a no-nonsense judge who clearly is annoyed with the Obama administration for ignoring his January 31 decision declaring Obamacare unconstitutional and saying its implementation must be halted.

His latest decision yesterday is being widely mis-reported in the major media as a victory for the administration. The Washington Post, for example, wrote, “Judge clears way for implementation of health-law in states that are challenging it.”

In fact, in a master stroke of jujitsu, Judge Vinson leapfrogged over the administration and said he was going to interpret the administration’s request for him to “clarify” his ruling as a request for a temporary stay of his order. And he gave the administration seven days to appeal his ruling or stop all action to implement the law.

The judge said his January 31 ruling was “plain and unambiguous” in its intent to bar the administration from moving forward with the law.

If the administration didn’t think it could comply, it should have immediately filed a motion for a stay rather than choosing to “effectively ignore the order” for two and a half weeks “and only then file a belated motion to clarify,” Judge Vinson said.

In his January decision, he ruled that the administration itself had said the individual mandate was central to the functioning of the whole law, and he “reluctantly” concluded that “Congress exceeded the bounds of its authority. . . . Because the individual mandate is unconstitutional and not severable, the entire Act must be declared void.”

He said in January his decision was “the functional equivalent of an injunction” that would bar the administration from proceeding with implementing the law.

But the administration simply ignored him, causing significant confusion among the states.

“The sooner this issue is finally decided by the Supreme Court, the better off the entire nation will be,” Vinson wrote in his latest ruling yesterday. “And yet, it has been more than one month from the entry of my order and judgment and still the defendants have not filed their notice of appeal.” (We can only speculate that the administration wants to drag its feet as long as possible in order to sink its regulatory roots as deeply as possible into our health sector and economy.)

In order to avoid a further delay, the judge interpreted the administration’s request for “clarification” as a request for a stay, which he granted for just seven days. If the government fails to file an appeal to his ruling, then all work to implement the law must stop.

Judge Vinson’s latest 20-page decision provides a concise summary of his longer 78-page January ruling and is worth your time.

Published in National Review Online: Critical Condition, March 4, 2011.

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