Judge Vinson’s Ruling on the Federal Government’s Motion for “Clarification”

March 4th, 2011

By Dan Miller

Much has been written and said about Judge Vinson’s ruling today granting a very limited stay of his earlier declaratory ruling (which he “clarified” to have been the equivalent of an injunction) against further implementation of ObamaCare. I have little to add other than a few quotations from today’s decision; it is tantamount to a statement that the federal government acted in bad faith.

Judge Vinson noted:

So to “clarify” my order and judgment: The individual mandate was declared unconstitutional. Because that “essential” provision was unseverable from the rest of the Act, the entire legislation was void. This declaratory judgment was expected to be treated as the “practical” and “functional equivalent of an injunction” with respect to the parties to the litigation. This expectation was based on the “longstanding presumption” that the defendants themselves [the federal government] identified and agreed to be bound by, which provides that a declaratory judgment against federal officials is a de facto injunction. To the extent that the defendants were unable (or believed that they were unable) to comply, it was expected that they would immediately seek a stay of the ruling, and at that point in time present their arguments for why such a stay is necessary, which is the usual and standard procedure. It was not expected that they would effectively ignore the order and declaratory judgment for two and one-half weeks, continue to implement the Act, and only then file a belated motion to “clarify.”

[T]he defendants had acknowledged in their summary judgment opposition brief that, if I were to find for the plaintiffs, separate injunctive relief would be superfluous and unnecessary. The defendants expressly assured the court that, in light of the “long-standing presumption that a declaratory judgment provides adequate relief as against an executive officer, as it will not be presumed that that officer will ignore the judgment of the Court,” any declaratory judgment in the plaintiffs’ favor “would [ ] be adequate to vindicate [the plaintiffs’] claims.” Defendants’ Memorandum in Opposition to Plaintiffs’ Motion for Summary Judgment (doc. 137), at 43.(emphasis added)

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3 Responses to “Judge Vinson’s Ruling on the Federal Government’s Motion for “Clarification””



  1. Tom Carter |

    I’ve read a number of news reports on Judge Vinson’s action, and it’s pretty consistently being reported, or at least implied, that he saw the error of his ways and backed down. In truth, seems he slapped the government around and gave them a week to get their appeal done, then he expects his decision to be respected.


  2. Dan Miller |

    Tom, that’s one of the reasons why media reports of judicial decisions generally are not worth much. They usually are little more than regurgitations of other media reports which had also been written by people who hadn’t bothered to read the decisions. I’ve found that the Wall Street Journal, which sometimes provides links to PDF copies of decisions, are generally the best.


  3. Dan Miller |

    Here is a report claimed to be “satire on Judge Vinson’s opinion.” Aside from the comment that fewer than half of the fifty-seven states were parties plaintiff, I don’t see much of it as satire.


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