Monday, January 31, 2011

A brief note on the rule of law and judicial activism



The individual mandate cannot be severed. This conclusion is reached with full appreciation for the “normal rule” that reviewing courts should ordinarily refrain from invalidating more than the unconstitutional part of a statute, but non-severability is required based on the unique facts of this case and the particular aspects of the Act. This is not a situation that is likely to be repeated.

-- Judge Vinson in Florida v. HHS

Our consideration is limited to the present circumstances, for the problem of equal protection in election processes generally presents many complexities.

-- Per Curiam opinion in Bush v. Gore.

It is hard to see Judge Vinson's opinion on the question of severability as entirely unaffected by partisan considerations, just as it is hard to reach the same conclusion about the 5-4 decision on the remedy in Bush v. Gore. When a judge informs you that a particular decision is unique, and unlikely ever to be repeated again--a ticket good for this day only--one begins to suspect that something other than the dispassionate application of the rule of law is going on. And of course, there is a remarkable congruence between what the Republican Party wants and what Judge Vinson has done (not to mention what the conservative majority did in Bush v. Gore).

The Republican Party does not want to excise the individual mandate but keep the most popular features of the ACA; it wants to get rid of the entire statute. This is something that Judge Hudson, who also declared the individual mandate unconstitutional in Virginia v. Sebelius, was unwilling to provide. In these "unique" circumstances, however, Judge Vinson was happy to be of service.

I never thought I'd say this, but compared to Judge Vinson, Judge Hudson is starting to look like an apostle of judicial restraint.

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