A Virginia judge today ruled that the federal health care reform’s mandate that Americans acquire health insurance is unconstitutional, conflicting with rulings in two other lawsuits challenging the law, according to The New York Times. The decision could also affect the anti-reform lawsuit filed by Attorney General Bill McCollum in a Pensacola court, a case that is scheduled to continue with oral arguments this Thursday.

From the Times:

[The decision] upstages a major hearing in Florida scheduled for Thursday before Judge Roger Vinson of Federal District Court in Pensacola, Fla., who is expected to rule early next year. Like Judge Hudson, Judge Vinson has expressed reservations about the insurance mandate.

[Virginia Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II], who was elected in 2009, has said he filed on his own because Virginia passed a law this year aimed at nullifying the federal insurance requirement, giving the commonwealth a distinct constitutional claim. Others attribute the strategy to political ambition, suggesting that Mr. Cuccinelli did not want to share the spotlight and knew he could exploit the accelerated pace of judging in Richmond’s “rocket docket” to raise his profile.

Mr. Cuccinelli filed the lawsuit minutes after President Obama signed the law on March 23, and has been discussing the case since on cable television shows and think tank panels. He follows each hearing and ruling with a news conference.

Even before Monday’s ruling, Mr. Cuccinelli and Gov. Robert F. McDonnell of Virginia, also a Republican, were seeking an agreement with the Justice Department to bypass the Court of Appeals and file for expedited review by the Supreme Court. That would have the effect of further marginalizing the Pensacola case, and the politicians bringing it. The Supreme Court rarely takes such requests and the Justice Department has not publicly expressed an opinion. [Emphasis added.]

The article also notes that “thus far, judges appointed by Republican presidents have ruled consistently against the Obama administration while Democratic appointees have found for it,” suggesting the legal battle is more a matter of politics than law.

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