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For media inquiries only, contact:  Brian J. Gottstein
Email: bgottstein@oag.state.va.us (best contact method)
Phone: 804-786-5874

Cuccinelli expresses disappointment in Fourth Circuit’s ruling in health care case

RICHMOND, VA (September 8, 2011)— Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli responded today to the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Virginia’s lawsuit against the federal government’s health care reform act.

“Obviously, we are disappointed in the ruling. Our disappointment not only stems from the fact that the court ruled against us, but also that the court did not even reach the merits on the key question of Virginia’s lawsuit—whether Congress has a power never before recognized in American history: the power to force one citizen to purchase a good or service from another citizen,” said Cuccinelli.

In summarizing the ruling, Cuccinelli noted that, by resting its decision on an alleged lack of standing by the commonwealth to even bring its lawsuit, the court dismissed Virginia’s claimed injury as illusory.

 “Contrary to the court’s suggestion, this suit has always been about vindicating the power of the Virginia General Assembly to legislate about a subject that has historically been viewed as falling within the areas the Constitution left to the states. Health, safety, and welfare issues have long been recognized as being part of the powers reserved to the states by the Constitution,” Cuccinelli said.

Cuccinelli noted that the court’s stated reasons placed the ruling’s reasoning at odds with constitutional design. “In rejecting Virginia’s right to bring the action, the court said that allowing such suits would allow the states to serve as ‘roving constitutional watchdogs.’ This was exactly a role that the Founding Fathers planned for the states to have. As James Madison wrote, under the Constitution, ‘the power surrendered by the people is first divided between two distinct governments…Hence a double security arises to the rights of the people. The different governments [state and federal] will control each other…’”

Cuccinelli continued, “Not only does the court’s opinion reject the role of the states envisioned by the Constitution, it dismisses an act of the Virginia General Assembly—the Health Care Freedom Act—as a mere pretense or pretext. It is unfortunate that the court would be so dismissive of a piece of legislation that passed both houses of a divided legislature by overwhelming margins with broad, bipartisan support.”

Cuccinelli vowed to appeal the court’s ruling.

For a copy of the 4th Circuit ruling, please click here.