MC&A Newsletter
Volume XI  ::  April 2010

MC&A endeavors to bring you the best in legal news to keep you informed. In this issue, read about the latest on healthcare in America, the passage of strict immigration laws in the state of Arizona, and the retirement of Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens. These issues have clogged the airwaves over the past month and with good reason -- they impact the lives of every American in one form or other! Read and enjoy!


Mdiwin Charles
Health Reform Faces Legal Diagnosis
logoOn Tuesday, March 23, 2010, President Obama signed The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law. The new health care law is the most expansive social legislation enacted in decades and calls for changes such as requiring insurance companies to provide coverage for Americans with pre-existing health conditions and charging a penalty to individuals who fail to purchase health insurance.

While supporters, the majority of which are Democrats, hailed the act's passage as a victory for American health care, others have challenged the law as unconstitutional. Specifically, the attorneys general of 14 states joined in on two federal lawsuits that challenge the newly passed law.

The first suit is led by Florida Attorney General Bill McCullom, a Republican, and joined by 12 other attorneys general. The second suit, brought separately by Virginia's attorney general, is based upon the state's enactment of a law declaring that Virginia residents need not obey the new health care law. Virginia is one of four states that passed legislature blocking the bill. Both suits claim that Congress lacks the power to compel individuals to buy health insurance by charging a penalty to those who fail to purchase coverage. Such a law has never been passed in which Americans are forced to buy something from private companies and therefore, the Supreme Court has never addressed the issued.

Attorney General McCullom's suit further argues that the law infringes on state sovereignty, requiring states to expand their Medicaid programs, which will require further state spending and impose added administrative burdens in setting up insurance exchanges offering various private policies. This argument may be more of a stretch since the law doesn't require states to set up an exchange or to participate in Medicaid. Although it would be impractical for states to opt out of Medicaid, it has long been established that Congress can attach conditions to money it provides to states, and requiring those states to expand their Medicaid programs is exactly one of those conditions.

However, under the Constitution, Congress has broad powers to regulate economic activity through its power to impose taxes for the general welfare and its power to regulate interstate commerce, both of which are categories the new law was framed to fall within: the penalty for failure to purchase insurance is imposed in the form of a tax, and according to Congressional findings, health insurance and health care are a significant part of the economy, most policies are sold through interstate commerce, and the law is essential to creating effective health insurance and creating near-universal coverage. As a result, there is a strong likelihood that the Supreme Court would uphold the law as constitutional.

We will have to wait to see how the courts interpret the newly enacted law, but it appears that such challenges were taken into consideration in drafting the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, protecting it from invalidation.

Sources: "The Legal Assault on Health Reforms," March 28, 2010, nytimes.com; "Obama Signs Health Care Overhaul Bill, With a Flourish" by Sheryl Gay Stolberg & Robert Pear, March 23, 2010, nytimes.com; "Obama Signs Health Care Bill Today as GOP Challenges Constitutionality" by Huma Kahn, March 23, 2010, abcnews.com.
Controversial Immigration Law Passed in Arizona
police carOn Friday, April 23, 2010, Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona signed a new immigration bill into law. The new law is the nation's toughest on illegal immigration and has created controversy throughout the U.S. Known as SB 1070, Arizona's law allows police the ability to detain any person they suspect of being in the country illegally and makes it a misdemeanor crime to fail to carry immigration papers. Under the law, police are required to stop and detain any person they reasonably suspect of being in the country illegally and to verify that person's status with federal officials. It also allows people to sue local government and its agencies when they believe either federal or state immigration law is not being enforced.

With the law's passage came protests across the nation and criticism from President Obama, who stated that SB 1070 threatened "to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans, as well as the trust between police and our communities that is so crucial to keeping us safe." A major fear is that the law opens the door to racial and ethnic profiling by Arizona police. Hispanics in Arizona, no matter their citizenship, may become targets for the police, which will create fear and distrust of law enforcement in Arizona communities. Governor Brewer said that racial profiling would not be tolerated and that police would receive proper training to enforce the law.

The passage of the law has re-ignited the immigration debate in Washington and we may see a federal overhaul on immigration laws. President Obama has already instructed the Justice Department to determine if the law is legal. The federal government has the exclusive authority to regulate immigration under the Constitution, as immigration is a national policy that affects the United States' relationship with other nations. In addition, the Arizona law imposes criminal sanctions for being in a state illegally, behavior that is only a deportable offense under federal law. While Arizona believes it is in line with Congress, since it is prohibiting behavior that the federal government has deemed illegal, civil rights groups are already working on filing suits to prevent the law from going into effect.

Sources: "Arizona Enacts Stringent Law on Immigration" by Randal C. Archibold, April 23, 2010, NY Times; "Civil Rights Groups Fight Arizona Immigration Law," April 24, 2010, msnbc.com; "Court Challenge for Arizona" by Bob Egelko, April 25, 2010, San Francisco Gate.
Justice Stevens' Retirement from the Supreme Court: The End of An Era
Justice StevensWhen U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens announced on April 9, 2010 that he would retire from the Court, it marked the end of an era. Appointed to the Supreme Court by President Ford in 1975, Justice Stevens is the oldest and most senior member of the Court, the longest serving Justice in history and the last remaining Justice to have served in World War II.

Justice Stevens was born in 1920 to a wealthy family in Chicago. He graduated from the University of Chicago and joined the Navy as an intelligence officer where he earned the Bronze Star. He went on to graduate from Northwestern University School of Law and clerked for then Supreme Court Justice Wiley Rutledge. Afterwards, Justice Stevens became Associate Counsel to the Subcommittee on the Study of Monopoly Power of the Judiciary Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, and was later a member of the Attorney General's National Committee to Study Antitrust Law. From 1970-1975, he served as a federal appellate judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

In his early years on the Court, Stevens took conservative positions on cases. For example, in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke - a case that involved a white medical school applicant who challenged the University of California Medical School at Davis' policy of setting aside spaces for students admitted through a special admissions program for minority applicants -- the Court held that, while the program at University of California was unconstitutional because it involved the use of a quota, it was lawful to take race into account in admissions. Justice Stevens, concurring in part and dissenting in part, had the opinion that Title VI -- which provides that no person may, on the ground of race or color be excluded from participating in any program receiving federal financial assistance - applied and that Bakke was excluded from admission in violation of Title VI and therefore, should be admitted to the school's program.

Read More....

Sources: "What Justice Stevens Stood For" by Robert A. Schapiro, April 12, 2010, CNN.com; Justice Stevens Editorial, April 9, 2010, nytimes.com; "Stevens's Retirement is Political Test for Obama" by Sheryl Gay Stolberg & Charlie Savage, April 9, 2010, nytimes.com; "Justice Stevens' Legacy: Fiercely Independent" by Jan Crawford, April 9, 2010, cbsnews.com; Biography of John Paul Stevens, Associate Justice, www.supremecourt.gov; "Justice Stevens to Retire from Supreme Court" by Joan Biskupic, April 12, 2010, USA Today; "Stevens' Successor Would Likely Come From Last Year's List" by Joan Biskupic, April 12, 2010, USA Today; "Justice John Paul Stevens to Retire From Supreme Court" by Ariane de Vogue, April 9, 2010, abcnews.com; "Clinton Hopes Obama Considers a Non-Judge for the Supreme Court" by Bruce Drake, April 18, 2010, politicsdaily.com.
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The MC&A Team
MC and A Team
Robyn Sonis, Midwin Charles, and Genese Walker

In This Issue
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