OLYMPIA – In a 9-0 ruling, the Washington State Supreme Court denied the City of Seattle’s request to require Attorney General Rob McKenna to withdraw Washington from the multi-state lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the federal health care law passed in March 2010 and upheld the Attorney General’s authority to defend the public interest.
“I’m pleased the court affirmed the authority and responsibility of the Attorney General to challenge the constitutionality of federal laws that threaten the constitutional rights of this state and its people,” McKenna said. “It’s important that the state’s constitutionally-established, independently-elected Attorney General – whomever it may be — have the authority to protect the legal rights of the state and its people in the years to come.”
The city argued the Attorney General overstepped his authority when he joined more than a dozen state attorneys general in filing the suit in late March 2010.
The state argued the courts have consistently recognized that the Attorney General’s constitutional and statutory role requires him or her to exercise independent legal judgment that takes into account the legal interests of the state of Washington as a whole when determining how to best protect its legal rights.
The court ruled 9-0 that state law grants the Attorney General discretionary authority to act in any court on “a matter of public concern,” that the federal health care reform act was of “public concern” and therefore denied the City of Seattle’s request to force the Attorney General to withdraw the state from the multistate lawsuit. The suit now includes 26 states, the National Federal of Independent Business and several individuals.
Solicitor General Maureen Hart argued the case on behalf of the state.
On August 12, 2011, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the federal government may not force individuals to purchase government-approved health insurance in the private marketplace, stating Congress may not “mandate that individuals enter into contracts with private insurance companies for the purchase of an expensive product from the time they are born until the time they die.”
Contacts: Janelle Guthrie, Communications Director, (360) 586-0725