The federal government has claimed an automatic two-week extension, hence a delay of a summary-judgment hearing on a 15-count lawsuit over the massive healthcare-reform bill.
New Jersey Activists Nicholas E. Purpura and Donald F. Laster Jr received notice of the extension application on Tuesday. In it, Assistant Attorney General Tony West invoked Local Civil Rule 7.1(d)(5) and asked for an automatic extension of time to respond to a request for summary judgment made on December 9.
The case, Purpura et al. v. Sebelius et al., Case # 3:10-cv-04814 (D.N.J.) (FLW), alleges that the healthcare-reform bill (HR 3590, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) is unconstitutional for fifteen separate reasons. Purpura and Laster filed it on September 20, 2010 and also asked for an immediate Temporary Restraining Order (TRO). Although the Justice Department has responded to two different TRO requests (both of which Judge Freda L. Wolfson has denied), the government has never once responded to the case itself.
Court rules require them to respond within sixty days or face summary judgment; hence Purpura and Laster’s latest request. Without the automatic extension, the government would have had to submit a brief in opposition to the motion by last Monday; the extension gives them until January 3, the date of the original summary-judgment hearing. That hearing is now postponed until January 17.
Purpura v. Sebelius is the most comprehensive of the 20 legal challenges to the healthcare-reform law in federal courts across the country. One of its fifteen counts is almost identical to one that Judge Henry E. Hudson in Virginia cited in his own ruling against the new law: that its mandate for individuals to buy “minimum coverage” exceeded the authority of the Congress under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. (Judge Roger Vinson in Florida is considering another case that makes the same argument.) But the New Jersey case also raises questions of the creation of yet another federal uniformed service (with a four-year appropriation, longer than the Constitutionally limited two), the privacy of medical records, taxes on medical devices (a violation of the tax-on-State-exports clause), and even President Barack Obama’s citizenship.
In a press release issued yesterday morning, their fellow activists in the Bayshore Tea Party group summarized the unique nature of the case (other than that Purpura and Laster have been acting pro se throughout): that it alleges so many counts that the healthcare law would “be effectively unenforceable” even if a court were to infer “severability” in the law. (“Severability” allows the rest of a law to remain constitutional even if one part of it is not. HR 3590 does not have a severability clause.) A note accompanying the release raised an alarm about possible “stalling” tactics by the government:
Even if the FL and VA suits stand, it is possible, but unlikely the high court will toss the entire healthcare bill. The administration already has plans to economically “force” citizens to purchase insurance, without actually mandating it. Our inside contacts tell us the DOJ is scrambling to get the Purpura suit buried because this case could end healthcare.
Laster has previously shared with this Examiner this key fact about jurisprudence: one cannot press an argument on appeal that he did not allege at trial. Hence their decision to allege all their 15 counts now. This might also explain the government’s extreme reluctance to answer this case and thus create a trial record. The government did, in fact, promise filings that would discredit all the 15 counts, but they have not made those filings as promised.
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