January 24, 2011

Federal court denies J.B. Van Hollen's "futility"

On January 19 Judge Roger Vinson of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida granted Wisconsin et al's motion to join a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of so-called Obamacare.

The defendants, the federal Department of Health and Human Services and others, opposed Wisconsin's motion on the grounds of any one of the following: futility, undue delay, bad faith, dilatory motive, or prejudice to the defendants. Wrote Vinson in ringing endorsement: "The proposed amendment would not be futile."

Indeed, the only amendment to the existing civil complaint is the addition of Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen's name to the case caption — the title block at the top of the document listing the names of the parties — along with five other State AGs or governors.

So legally insignificant is Van Hollen's amendment that Vinson "relieve[d] the defendants of the obligation" of even bothering to reply (normally, amended complaints require a written answer).

That is, it's at best the merest of mere formalities and at worst a political stunt, but one which apparently doesn't count as "bad faith."

* Amusingly for fans of judicial politics, the law of civil procedure directs that judges' assent to the admission of amended complaints is to be "freely and liberally given," according to Vinson's paraphrase.

Van Hollen now rests to pray that the said free and liberal giving, politically useful to him in this instance, ends at some point during the giving of Congress's power to regulate interstate commerce.

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