Originally published 2/1/11 on Health Policy and Marketplace Review
The last issue to be resolved is the plaintiffs’ request for injunctive relief enjoining implementation of the Act, which can be disposed of very quickly.
Injunctive relief is an “extraordinary” [Weinberger v. Romero-Barcelo, 456U.S. 305, 312, 102 S. Ct. 1798, 72 L. Ed. 2d 91 (1982)], and “drastic” remedy [Aaron v. S.E.C., 446 U.S. 680, 703, 100 S. Ct. 1945, 64 L. Ed. 2d 611 (1980)(Burger, J., concurring)]. It is even more so when the party to be enjoined is the federal government, for there is a long-standing presumption “that officials of the Executive Branch will adhere to the law as declared by the court. As a result, the declaratory judgment is the functional equivalent of an injunction.” See Comm. On Judiciary of U.S. House of Representatives v. Miers, 542 F.3d 909, 911 (D.C. Cir.2008); accord Sanchez-Espinoza v. Reagan, 770 F.2d 202, 208 n.8 (D.C. Cir.1985) (“declaratory judgment is, in a context such as this where federal officers are defendants, the practical equivalent of specific relief such as an injunction . . .since it must be presumed that federal officers will adhere to the law as declared by the court”) (Scalia, J.) (emphasis added).
There is no reason to conclude that this presumption should not apply here. Thus, the award of declaratory relief is adequate and separate injunctive relief is not necessary.
Presumably, this applies only in the 26 states that brought the suit. And, of course we should expect the Appeals Court with jurisdiction over this judge to rule on his finding–including the possibility of an emergency order keeping the law in effect during the appeals. But what happens to the early benefits of the law in the meantime?
More uncertainty over the implementation of the new health law.
You can download the complete opinion here.
Bob Laszewski is a health policy analyst writing at Health Policy and Marketplace Review.