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Reform law's prospects also appear dim on appeal

Last week, U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson struck down a part of President Obama's health care law that requires all individuals to have health insurance by 2014. Under this provision, people would be taxed for not purchasing health insurance.

In striking down the law, Hudson, who was nominated to the court by former President George W. Bush, takes a strict interpretation approach to judicial precedent.

In doing so, Hudson ruled that a citizen's refusal to purchase health insurance is not "an activity" that can be regulated under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution.

The crux of the discussion is whether failing to purchase insurance constitutes "an activity." The strict interpretation approach Hudson takes is the epitome of Republican judges. Cases that Hudson discusses have set precedent while using a liberal approach to examine the Commerce Clause.

In the past, the Supreme Court has interpreted that Interstate Commerce includes activities that are not truly interstate in nature, such as growing a couple extra bushels of wheat.

Furthermore, our judicial system has left us with hundreds of cases where an inactivity was included in activity; where failing to act was equal to acting and where an omission is the same as a lie.

It would be simple to follow interpretation precedent and include the failure to purchase insurance in the definition of an activity. Hudson knew that his judicial conclusion would not be the last word on this; his decision is still pending appellate review.

In an op-ed piece on the Washington Post's website last Tuesday, Attorney General Eric Holder and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said they "are confident that the law will ultimately be upheld." Unfortunately, the law has already suffered one setback and there is another hurdle in the future.

This appeal will be to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. It will be decided by a panel of three judges drawn from the 14 in the Fourth Circuit. The majority of those judges, like Hudson, were nominated by a Republican president.

Traditionally, conservative judges, like Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, have taken a strict interpretation approach in deciding cases. Here, if two of the judges happen to share that approach, common sense dictates that there is another chance that Hudson's decision will be affirmed.

Holder's optimism that the law will be upheld seems a little less possible when in light of the court's makeup.


Joshua Ramos of Niagara Falls recently graduated from the Florida A&M Law School.

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