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Missouri Votes Against Individual Mandate, May Impact Standing Argument in Federal Court

Posted Aug 19 2010 9:24pm

flag_of_missourisvg1Recently, Missouri voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot initiative which, according to the AMA’s amednews.com , “ask[ed] voters in part if they want to ‘deny the [federal] government authority to penalize citizens for refusing to purchase private health insurance or infringe upon the right to offer or accept direct payment for lawful health care services.’”

More than 71% of voters approved the initiative which seeks to negate the individual mandate, 29% voted against.

As recent events in California regarding Proposition 8 have shown, a referendum deemed unconstitutional  is without force of law.

In the AMA’s article, it is noted that

Few legal experts consider the state proposals more than symbolic, as federal law generally trumps state law. But lawsuits filed or joined by officials in 21 states challenging the federal government’s authority to require health insurance have the potential to overturn the federal law.

Generalities aside, as is best in this regard, it strikes me that the Missouri initiative may have more than just symbolic value. Importantly, in the recent federal court decision regarding Virginia’s suit against the individual mandate, the judge in that case found standing for the state of Virginia–an exceedingly important, though procedural, ruling. It is exceedingly important because without standing the case could simply not go forward. The judge in the case found standing for Virginia’s 10th Amendment claim largely based upon a law passed subsequent by the state of Virginia. Regarding that matter I wrote:

In deciding the standing issue, Judge Hudson, according to Professor Jack Balkin , made much of the “Virginia Health Care Freedom Act– which asserts that no Virgina citizen may be forced to purchase health care insurance; that this law conflicts with the federal Affordable Care Act, and therefore Virginia has standing to challenge the act under the 10th amendment.”

Virginia’s Act was passed subsequent to the federal law in question; other states challenging the individual mandate do not, at present, have such a law to rely on. As Professor Balkin points out, however, the Virginia Act being deemed sufficient to buttress standing in a States’ rights Tenth Amendment claim is interesting– to say the least. It begs the question.

In more than just symbolic terms, Missouri may have just answered that question–at least in terms of 10th Amendment standing–if, of course, its federal district court sees the matter in the same way as did Judge Hudson. Certainly not guaranteed– the Missouri Federal Court is not bound by the Federal Court of Virginia– but nonetheless, Missourian’s just laid claim to an argument that has won elsewhere.

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