Senior U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida has signed an order allowing a total of six states to become parties to the litigation challenging the reform law’s constitutionality. The new states are Ohio, Kansas, Wyoming, Wisconsin, Maine, and Iowa.
Vinson’s latest action puts the plaintiff count at 26 of the 50 states signed onto the legal challenge.
The court rebuffed arguments by the Obama Administration that any changes to the complaint were supposed to have been filed by May 2010; the court noted that representatives of the new states were all recently elected to office so they could not have taken legal action any earlier.
Vinson noted that the new states have all agreed to enter the case where it stands in the litigation process – with both sides having asked Vinson to throw out their opponent’s case with all legal briefs filed and oral arguments already held.
The court asserted that allowing the six new plaintiffs would not hurt the government’s defense of the law – particularly since Vinson said he will not require government lawyers to file a new response to the amended lawsuit listing the new plaintiffs.
“And most importantly, I can imagine no prejudice that could inure to the defendants in granting the plaintiffs’ motion, as the second amended complaint changes nothing in the case except for the caption and style, and will not delay its resolution,” Vinson wrote. “Indeed, because of this, I will relieve the defendants of the obligation to file an answer to the new complaint and will regard their previously-filed answer as an answer to the new complaint as well.”
Among other things, the states contend that the HCR “individual mandate” requiring people to eventually have health insurance or pay a penalty is an unconstitutional exercise of Congressional power. Vinson ruled in October that parts of the mutli-state case can move forward (see Court Green Lights FL HCR Challenge). “This would be an unprecedented expansion of federal power, violating the United States Constitution,” Maine Attorney General William Schneider said about the health reform law in a news release announcing his state’s entry into the case.
Vinson’s order regarding the new plaintiffs is here.