AGs, governors want to support feds in health care challenge

John O'Brien Jun. 24, 2010, 12:46pm


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Legal Newsline) - A group of states wants to oppose the lawsuit challenging federal health care reform despite a judge saying it is unlikely he will accept outside involvement in the case.

Wednesday, three state attorneys general asked U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson to clarify his June 14 order regarding amicus briefs, while the governors of Colorado, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Washington filed for leave to submit their own.

The attorneys general are Oregon's John Kroger, Iowa's Tom Miller and Vermont's William Sorrell.

"The Amici States seek clarification because the Court did not specifically address filings by states, and states (like the federal government) are typically given broad latitude for purposes of amicus filings," the AGs wrote.

"If the Court did intend its Order to limit filings by states, the Amici States request leave to file a joint1 amicus curiae brief during the motion to dismiss phase of these proceedings because no party to this proceeding fairly represents the perspective and interests of the Amici States and this case may be resolved prior to the summary judgment stage."

Vinson wrote that any "organization or individual" must wait until the summary judgment phase to ask for leave to file an amicus brief. The AGs say that wording indicates the order does not apply to states.

The AGs are opposed to the lawsuit, of which Florida is the lead plaintiff. Nineteen other states have joined Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum.

"The role of the Amici States is particularly important here, where the plaintiff states are trying to block, on federalism grounds, a federal law that the Amici States believe is both constitutional and important to the health and welfare of their citizens."

The states challenging the health care reform signed into law in March by President Barack Obama say it is unlawful to require individuals to purchase health insurance or face an annual penalty of $695. They also say the increase of individuals eligible for Medicaid will put a financial strain on the states.

Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire, Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm and Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, meanwhile, disagree with their respective state attorney general's decision to join the lawsuit as a plaintiff.

"Unlike the attorneys general of their respective states who are plaintiffs in this action, the governors believe the health care reforms found in the (Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) are critical to the future affordability of health care for residents and businesses, state agencies, public employees and tribal governments in their states and are constitutional," the governors' motion says.

The plaintiffs opposed the motion filed by the attorneys general "and any other such motions at this stage of the litigation."

Vinson had taken a stance on amicus briefs that wouldn't allow anyone to participate in the motion to dismiss phase of the suit, and said it was "perhaps unlikely" that he would accept any amicus briefs during the summary judgment phase.

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