Over at Secondhand Smoke, I take some time to summarize and analyze yesterday’s big ruling in Florida voiding Obamacare as unconstitutional. But I think something more needs to be written here, as well as at SHS. The Administration is apparently stating that since Judge Vinson did not issue a formal injunction, they can continue to implement the law. Not true. From my conclusion:
Read the following carefully. You don’t have to be a lawyer to know that the administration is prevented by the court’s ruling from further implementing the law. This comes at page 75 (my emphasis):
The last issue to be resolved is the plaintiffs’ request for injunctive relief enjoining implementation of the Act, which can be disposed of very quickly. Injunctive relief is an “extraordinary” [Weinberger v. Romero-Barcelo, 456 U.S. 305, 312, 102 S. Ct. 1798, 72 L. Ed. 2d 91 (1982)], and “drastic” remedy… It is even more so when the party to be enjoined is the federal government, for 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 declaratory judgment is the functional equivalent of an injunction.” See Comm. on Judiciary of U.S. House of Representatives v. Miers, 542 F.3d 909, 911 (D.C. Cir. 2008); accord Sanchez-Espinoza v. Reagan, 770 F.2d 202, 208 n.8 (D.C. Cir. 1985) (“declaratory judgment is, in a context such as this where federal officers are defendants, the practical equivalent of specific relief such as an injunction . . . since it must be presumed that federal officers will adhere to the law as declared by the court”)…There is no reason to conclude that this presumption should not apply here.
That means that under the ruling, the law is void and cannot be implemented from this point forward. The Administration’s legal remedy is to seek a stay of the ruling pending appeal. It cannot just defy a federal court ruling. If it tries, the plaintiffs should go to court for the injunction and/or seek an order of contempt against the administration. Pretending that the ruling doesn’t change anything when it unequivocally does, would be both a petulant and extra legal approach to governance.
Update: This story notes that the law would be unenforceable–absent a stay–only within the geographical boundaries of Judge Vinson’s jurisdiction–and that the law could be enforced in other areas, for example, where the law was upheld. That could be right. It’s complicated. The entire appeals process should be fast-tracked to the Supremes.