Tuesday, December 14, 2010

HEALTHCARE - Judge Should Have Recused Himself

"Judge Who Ruled Against Health Care Reform Owns GOP Consulting Firm" by Jessica Pieklo, Care2 12/14/2010

The decision by a federal judge in Virginia that portions of the Affordable Care Act are unconstitutional is drawing scrutiny not so much for its outcome but for the fact that the judge presiding over the suit owns between $15,000 and $50,000 in a GOP political consulting firm that worked to undo health care reform.

And this is why many, including the administration, have suggested that the court challenges to the health insurance reform law are more politically motivated than legally sound.

The apparent conflict of interest was first reported at the Huffington Post and other outlets as far back as July after campaign disclosures revealed that Judge Henry Hudson owned a significant share of Campaign Solutions, Inc. Among the campaigns that Campaign Solutions worked with include vocal opponents of the reform like John Boehner and Michele Bachmann and a host of others who placed the constitutionality of health care reform at the center of both campaigns and the Republican party platform moving into the 2012 elections.

This is not the first blatant conflict of interest surrounding the challenges from the right to the Affordable Care Act. Justice Clarence Thomas' wife Ginny and her group have received the most attention, and both raise the issue of just how infected with politics the judiciary has become.

Even if this decision were to stand on the merits, and it is unlikely it will ultimately, the fact that remains that judge Hudson refused to recuse himself shows a significant flaw in the judiciary. Furthermore, conservatives filed many challenges in many jurisdictions, hoping for conflicting decisions since a circuit split is one of the surest and fastest means of getting a matter before the Supreme Court. More than likely their choice of venue in Virginia was driven by judge Hudson's presence on the bench.

The decision is likely to be appealed, though it is possible that the Obama administration could decline to appeal since the order did not actually strike any provisions of the ACA. If there's an upside to this entire mess it is a renewed focus on judicial ethics and the relationship between the judiciary and the electoral process. But given the reluctance by the mainstream media to draw any attention to these relationships, let alone raise critical questions surrounding them, unfortunately very little is likely to change.

When his judgement is appealed (especially if it reaches the Supreme Court) his ownership in the consulting firm should be grounds for dismissing the judgement. It is a clear conflict of interest.

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