A New Jersey US District Court judge has dismissed the pro se complaint brought by two New Jersey Tea Party activists, who vow to appeal immediately.
Judge Freda L. Wolfson handed down a one-page ruling and a twenty-page opinion on Thursday, April 21, in the case of Purpura et al. v. Sibelius et al. (Case no. 3:10-CV-10-04814-FLW-DEA). The court ruled on a motion to dismiss filed by Ethan P. Davis on behalf of the federal government. This motion asserted that the plaintiffs lacked standing, and on that account the court lacked the all-important subject-matter jurisdiction over the case. The court essentially agreed.
…the Court finds that Plaintiffs have failed to demonstrate that they have standing to challenge the constitutionality of the [Patient Protection and Affordable Care] Act. Accordingly, this Court does not have subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiffs’ claims and Defendants’ motion to dismiss is GRANTED.
20110422 Opinion Supporting Dismissal of Complaint
Under Rule 12 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, no court can proceed once it determines that it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, nor can any party waive that requirement. Furthermore, standing is a key element in subject-matter jurisdiction, as this unrelated opinion shows. But as co-plaintiff Donald R. Laster Jr. explained to this reporter on the afternoon of April 22, the two plaintiffs have never doubted that they had standing. Characterizing the opinion as one “ignoring facts and law,” Laster and his fellow plaintiff Nicholas E. Purpura have promised to appeal the matter to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.
The elements of standing are:
- Injury in fact, which must be both particular to any given plaintiff and either actual (occurring today) or imminent (will occur in future),
- Causality between the injury and the defendant’s conduct, and
- Likelihood of relief from (or prevention of) the injury by a judgment in the plaintiff’s favor.
In holding that Purpura and Laster lack standing, the court said that the plaintiffs never asserted anything firmer than conjecture as to how the Act will affect them. The Court asserted that Purpura would be eligible for Medicare anyway, and that therefore the “Individual Mandate” (the tax or fine most at issue) would never affect him. Laster had the stronger standing claim, and the court appeared to know it, by citing Laster’s assertion that he is handicapped, and therefore would require the use of certain medical devices that would be subject to the Act’s medical-device tax. The court said in reply:
Not only are these facts unspecific, they are also entirely conjectural and hypothetical and, therefore, insufficient to confer standing…
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The court then asserted that the plaintiffs would have had to show that they had reorganized their finances in order to comply with the “Individual Mandate.” The essence of the court’s finding (see page 19 of the opinion) is that anyone who can afford the mandate, has no standing to sue against it.
The court appeared to contradict itself on page 8, after admitting that a plaintiff need not wait for a new law to take effect before suing to challenge it. It said that one challenging a law:
must show that [he has] already sustained, or [is] in immediate and certain danger of sustaining, a real and direct injury.
By far the most glaring weakness in the court’s position is that it admits on the front end that it is evaluating a facial challenge of standing, not a factual one. A factual challenge simply denies the plaintiff’s allegations. A facial challenge says that even if the facts are correct, the plaintiff still is not harmed as a result. Whether any plaintiff would meet this court’s standard of showing injury in fact from an unconstitutional (non-criminal) statute is not clear to this Examiner. Indeed, the court’s examination of another case (New Jersey Physicians, Inc.) seemed to indicate that even a plaintiff who, in his present circumstances, had no health insurance and had no plans to purchase any on the individual market, would lack standing because he could not predict whether he might have gainful employment and acceptable group membership by then. (That the government has already granted literally hundreds of waivers to the largest employers in the country, and even to several States, exempting the same from certain minimal coverage requirements, seems to have made no impression on the court, this although the waivers show that the Act places all private insurance in a precarious financial position.)
Laster has not commented to this reporter since April 22. Purpura has confirmed this reporter’s analysis of the situation.
Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.
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