court battles
December 15, 2018

Friday night's federal court ruling that the Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly known as ObamaCare, is unconstitutional because of its individual mandate provision raised two key questions: What does this mean for Americans' health-care coverage? And will the ruling stand?

On the first point, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said there will be "no impact to current coverage or coverage in a 2019 plan." Beyond that, many legal experts are skeptical of the decision's longevity because though it claims the individual mandate is "essential to and inseverable from the remainder of the ACA," 2017's GOP tax reform law nixed the mandate's penalty.

Law professor Jonathan Adler explained this argument at length at The Volokh Conspiracy and in brief for Vox:

[Legal experts] say [the ruling] willfully ignores the intent of the 2017 Congress, which zeroed out the individual mandate penalty without touching the rest of the Affordable Care Act.

"They are asking the court to evaluate the current law on the basis of what the law used to be," Jonathan Adler, a law professor at Case Western University who supported previous ObamaCare challenges, has told Vox. "That whole analysis just doesn't apply or work anymore." [Vox]

Ted Frank, director of litigation for the conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute, likewise deemed Friday's ruling "an embarrassingly bad decision," arguing that "if a liberal judge had issued something like it goring a conservative ox, conservatives would be rightly up in arms." And New York Times editorial board member Cristian Farias contended the "partisan, activist ruling cannot stand," urging ACA supporters not to panic.

But George Mason University law professor llya Somin, also writing at The Volokh Conspiracy, sounded a note of greater caution. "I do not expect this ruling to survive on appeal," he said. "But I am not quite as confident on that subject as most other commentators seem to be. The fact that one federal judge has endorsed the states' severability argument increases the odds that others might, as well." Read his reasoning here. Bonnie Kristian

December 8, 2018

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled late Friday that the Trump administration cannot enforce President Trump's November executive order restricting asylum applications to migrants who enter the U.S. legally.

The 2-1 decision held the order violates current U.S. law and illegitimately seeks to circumvent Congress. "Just as we may not, as we are often reminded, 'legislate from the bench,' neither may the executive legislate from the Oval Office," wrote Judge Jay Bybee for the majority. Bybee was appointed by former President George W. Bush.

A previous district court ruling likewise held Trump lacks authority to "rewrite the immigration laws to impose a condition that Congress has expressly forbidden."

The Justice Department declined to comment on Friday's decision, referencing instead a previous statement about "continuing to defend the executive branch's legitimate and well-reasoned exercise of its authority to address the crisis at our southern border."
Bonnie Kristian

August 26, 2018

U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson on Saturday blocked key portions of an executive order President Trump signed earlier this year to make it easier to fire federal workers.

Jackson sided with government employee unions, arguing the rules "impair the ability of agency officials to keep an open mind, and to participate fully in give-and-take discussions, during collective bargaining negotiations."

Trump's order targeted employees whose managers believe they are underperforming, making changes like cutting the number of days in which performance should improve to avoid firing. Another limited the amount of time a full-time federal employee could spend on union business during work hours.

The Justice Department said in response to the ruling it is "reviewing the decision and considering our next steps." The Trump administration argued the rules were necessary to save taxpayers money and curb employee misconduct. "Tenured federal employees have stolen agency property, run personal businesses from work, and been arrested for using drugs during lunch breaks and not been fired," a White House statement said when the executive order was signed. Bonnie Kristian

June 16, 2018

The Fourth District Court of Appeals on Friday reinstated a controversial law called the End of Life Option, which permits terminally ill patients to commit doctor-assisted suicide.

The law lets patients who have less than six months to live seek medications to end their lives. It was ruled unconstitutional on procedural grounds — it was passed during a legislative session called to address other issues — by a different judge last month.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra cheered the appeals court decision. "This ruling provides some relief to California patients, their families, and doctors who have been living in uncertainty while facing difficult health decisions," he said. Some critics of the law argue it does not adequately distinguish terminal illness, while others argue physician-assisted suicide should not be legal at all.

Opponents of the law now face a July 2 deadline if they wish to challenge the appeals court ruling. The End of Life Option first went into effect in 2016. Bonnie Kristian

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