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Supreme Court: Rob McKenna may keep Washington in health care lawsuit

Post by Jordan Schrader / The News Tribune on Sep. 1, 2011 at 9:54 am with 22 Comments »
September 1, 2011 10:58 am

Attorney General Rob McKenna was within his legal rights to bring Washington into the lawsuit against the federal government’s health care overhaul, the state Supreme Court ruled unanimously today.

In two rulings issued today regarding the state attorney general’s authority, McKenna won one and lost the other. More to come on the loss. But in the one that was more closely watched because it involved the hot-button issue of President Obama’s health care law, the Republican attorney general and gubernatorial candidate prevailed.

In a 9-0 decision, the justices rejected Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes’s request for the court to order McKenna to withdraw Washington from the lawsuit.

The opinion authored by Justice Susan Owens says:

The people of the state of Washington have, by statute, vested the attorney general with broad authority, and Attorney General McKenna’s decision to sue to enjoin the enforcement of the PPACA falls within that broad authority. As such, Attorney General McKenna has no mandatory duty to withdraw the State from the multistate litigation.

Justices relied on their past interpretation of a state law allowing the attorney general to

Appear for and represent the state before the supreme court or the court of appeals in all cases in which the state is interested

Quoting from earlier cases, they wrote that means the AG has

discretionary authority to act in any court, state or federal, trial or appellate, on “a matter of public concern,” … provided that there is a “cognizable common law or statutory cause of action”

However, the governor may be able to keep the attorney general out of such a lawsuit. The court didn’t rule directly on that, but said:

In her amicus curiae brief to this court, Governor Gregoire argues that where the governor and attorney general disagree, the attorney general may not proceed in the name of the State. This argument is not wholly without merit, as article III, section 2 of the Washington Constitution vests in the governor “[t]he supreme executive power of this state.”

Justices said they couldn’t decide that issue because Gov. Chris Gregoire hasn’t officially sought to stop McKenna, even though she has disagreed with his joining the lawsuit.

UPDATE 10:58 a.m.: McKenna issued a statement saying in part:

I’m pleased the court affirmed the authority and responsibility of the Attorney General to challenge the constitutionality of federal laws that threaten the constitutional rights of this state and its people. It’s important that the state’s constitutionally-established, independently-elected Attorney General – whomever it may be — have the authority to protect the legal rights of the state and its people in the years to come.

I’m pleased the court affirmed the authority and responsibility of the Attorney General to challenge the constitutionality of federal laws that threaten the constitutional rights of this state and its people,” McKenna said. “It’s important that the state’s constitutionally-established, independently-elected Attorney General – whomever it may be — have the authority to protect the legal rights of the state and its people in the years to come.”
Leave a comment Comments → 22
  1. Imagine that an AG that is doing his job. This will so tie the liberal’s panties in knots.

  2. Good luck getting elected without winning any votes in Seattle, McKenna.

  3. tomwa007 says:

    The partisan headline says “Obamacare” the name given to the health care coverage bill by the Republican spin doctors.

    TNT your politics are showing………….

  4. Great catch, tomwa007…..

    I’m sort of glad that McKenna has to demonstrate why he doesn’t want Americans to have access to the same health care coverage he gets. This will be especially nice during his campaign.

  5. “Obamacare”? Seriously TNT? I’ll expect your headlines to start referring to Tea Party folks as “Teabaggers” in your coverages now that you’re adopting partisan political labels as if they were official names.

  6. Obama is imploding on every front. This is fun to watch.

  7. Could you at least call it ObamaInsure? ObamaCare is totally loaded and completely inaccurate. It is fine to have intellectual opposition to something, so long as you actually understand what you are opposing.

  8. LarryFine says:

    “access to the same health care coverage he gets”

    Where did you get the idea that Obamacare will guarantee “the same healthcare coverage”?

  9. fletc3her says:

    McKenna is wasting the money of the taxpayers of Washington in order to score national political points. This does not speak well of how he would conduct himself as governor. Let’s elect somebody who will put the concerns of Washington State above party politics.

  10. LarryFine says:

    No, here’s a waste of money (1 of many examples)

    President Barack Obama is standing by his support for renewable energy after Solyndra Inc., a maker of solar panels that received a $535 million U.S. loan guarantee, shut its doors, a White House spokesman said.


  11. Dear_John says:

    Nice example, Larry.

    Go, Rob!

    Another example of Christine Grabmore’s incompetence, “He don’t work for me”. Amen, sister, he works for us!! Go directly to the unemployement line, Chrissy.

  12. Now is the time for the legislature to take away his funding.

  13. dbreneman says:

    “Obamacare” is a colloquial term understood by everyone. If liberals think is it a pejorative, it’s merely a reflection of the disdain that most Americans have for this government power grab. But if a politically-correct term (and therefore, one devoid of meaning) is needed, how about O-Bam-O-Rama?

  14. fanciladi says:

    Yes, I agree GO ROB!!!!

    So he couldn’t challance Obamacare…Obamacare is supposed to be the ‘cure-all’ for our country…NOT SO…it’s actually making our country the ‘all-sick’ and will leave us begging even more to other countries to help get our country well!

  15. ItalianSpring says:

    McKenna for president.

  16. tacoman1 says:

    Seems like just another court ruling. So the AG has a right to spend tax dollars challenging something that was passed by congress.
    My take is that if you want universal health care and I include Medicaid and Medicare , to not be available vote for your man or woman. If you like the idea of a government protected universal health care coverage and want Medicare and Medicaid then vote for your person.
    Of course only works if each side agrees to abide by the winning vote. I vaguely remember a civics class which explained how the presidency , congress and courts performed to make up our glorious government.

  17. hansgruber says:

    Pretty sad that 26 States (Including Washington) have challenged the new healthcare law since June 8th 2011 and the Obama Admin believes America wants this bill.
    For all you who are math challenged, that would be MORE THAN HALF do not want Obamacare.

  18. I really think this was just done to bring attention to himself before his run for Govenor. He did not “poll” the voters of WA before he filed the suit. Just grandstanding on his part..shame!

  19. The Clear View says:

    Rob will be the next Govenor just because he will win a very large vote total in King County plus carry greater than 55% in Pierce. Time for a change!!

  20. LarryFine says:

    You don’t need to “poll voters” to determine something is unconstitutional. He’s doing his job… the other 24 AGs are not.

  21. tacoman1 says:

    Regarding hansgruber comments.
    Actually the reference to 26 other states challenging the universal health care plan as being some type of indication that half of America does not want health care is misleading and is somewhat scary as it appears that we have skipped our civics class.
    The president is elected by the citizens of the united states of America. The AG and other states AG’s are only elected by their individual states and in no way have taken a vote.
    Many Americans in fact the majority voted for the President knowing his platform called for health care reform. He did what was long overdue and what he said he would do.
    It is refreshing to have a politician actually do what he says he will do.

  22. tacoman1 says:

    I would have felt a little more sympathetic to Robby had he taken such a stand to include Medicare and Medicaid and the prescription drug program (which was unfunded). By not doing so it shows his motivation is political and not grounded in fiscal responsibility.
    Whilst I gave him a shot at the AG office , I’m not quite sure he has on his big boy pants and is ready to be given the car keys.

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