Observers expect the case to move ahead and in a Sept. 15 written scheduling order, Vinson set a timetable to file motions for summary dismissal and to file replies. The judge wrote that these dates were set “assuming the case survives dismissal in whole or in part.” Vinson, who was appointed to the federal bench in 1983 by President Ronald Reagan, also limited motions to 50 pages and replies to 25. He set a Dec. 16 date to hear oral arguments on summary judgment.
On Sept. 14, Vinson heard arguments from U.S. Deputy Assistant Attorney General Ian Gershengorn and plaintiff attorneys Blaine Winship, Florida's assistant attorney general, and David Rivkin, a former staffer in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations and now an attorney in the Washington office of Baker and Hostetler.
In June and again in August, Vinson denied requests from various parties to file amicus briefs stating that this is not the time to do so.
“After reading their motions, it appears that the proposed state amici might have positions and arguments that may be helpful to the court during the merits phase of this case,” Vinson wrote on June. 14. “However, it does not appear that they have anything especially useful to add at the motion to dismiss stage, which is concerned primarily with discrete legal issues such as standing and ripeness.”
Obama administration attorneys have argued that the state attorneys general do not have standing to sue, in part, because they cannot show “actual or imminent injury” caused by provisions in the healthcare reform law set to take effect in 2014.
The lawsuit was filed in March with Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum leading the effort. Eleven other Republican attorneys general originally joined the suit, along with only one Democrat—Buddy Caldwell of Louisiana. Seven other states eventually signed on as well.
Attorneys general in other states are under pressure to take sides, but New Mexico's Gary King has decided not to enter the fray, though a representative for King said his office is doing an independent study of the new law. “We're not going to support either side,” said King spokesman Phil Sisneros, who added that an analysis of the law is still ongoing because of its “voluminous” nature.
“It's in New Mexico's interest to study it rather than rely on the rhetoric,” Sisneros said, adding that it doesn't make economic sense for New Mexico to pile on. “It's more prudent to save taxpayers a few dollars than to join either side.”