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Judge chides Obama for ignoring health-care ruling, urges fast-track appeal

Judge Roger Vinson has agreed to stay his January ruling that Obama's health-care reform law is unconstitutional – but only if the administration fast-tracks an appeal, possibly directly to the Supreme Court.

By Staff writer / March 3, 2011

Senior U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson, seen in this 2007 file photo from Pensacola, Fla., declared the Obama administration's health-care overhaul unconstitutional on Jan. 31, siding with 26 states that sued to block it, saying that people can't be required to buy health insurance.

Tony Giberson / The Pensacola News Journal / AP / File

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Miami

The federal judge in Florida who struck down President Obama’s health-care reform law a month ago issued a stay of that order on Thursday – while insisting that the government launch a fast-track appeal.

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In a tartly-worded order, Senior US District Judge Roger Vinson issued the stay under the condition that government lawyers seek an expedited appeal of Vinson’s ruling within seven days either to the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta or directly to the US Supreme Court.

“Almost everyone agrees that the constitutionality of the act is an issue that will ultimately have to be decided by the Supreme Court of the United States,” Judge Vinson said. “It is very important to everyone in this country that this case move forward as soon as practically possible.”

Judge Vinson became the second federal judge to strike down a key portion of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. In a Jan. 31 decision, Vinson declared that Congress exceeded its authority under the Constitution’s commerce clause by requiring every American to purchase a government-approved level of private health insurance.

But the judge went further. He also ruled that since the so-called individual mandate was the centerpiece of the entire reform effort, all 450 provisions in the law must also be rendered void as well.

The Pensacola-based judge did not issue an injunction specifically commanding the Obama administration to immediately halt all efforts to implement health-care reform.

He did not believe an injunction was necessary.

His Jan. 31 ruling says in part on page 75: “There is a long-standing presumption that officials of the executive branch will adhere to the law as declared by the court. As a result, the [Jan. 31] declaratory judgment is the functional equivalent of an injunction.”

Immediately after Judge Vinson issued his decision, senior administration officials said they would continue to implement the health-reform law as the appeals process moved forward.

Some well-known provisions have already taken affect, including a bar on denying coverage for preexisting health conditions and allowing parents to maintain coverage of their young-adult children.

In addition, several states are taking concrete steps to prepare for the broader implementation of the law and are accepting federal money to fund the effort.

Many legal analysts had expected administration lawyers to seek a stay of Judge Vinson’s Jan. 31 ruling to extend during an appeal. But rather than immediately file an appeal, the Justice Department waited 2-1/2 weeks before it sent an unusual motion to the judge.

The government wanted the judge to “clarify” whether his 78-page decision was intended to bring an immediate halt to the entire Affordable Care Act.

Lawyers for the 26 states challenging the constitutionality of the ACA told Vinson the effort was a “transparent attempt … to obtain a stay pending appeal.”

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