Virginia Judge Rules Health Care Mandate Unconstitutional

A Virginia federal judge on Monday found a key part of President Barack Obama's sweeping health care reform law unconstitutional, setting the stage for a protracted legal struggle likely to wind up in the Supreme Court.

U.S. District Court Judge Henry Hudson struck down the ""individual mandate"" requiring most Americans to purchase health insurance by 2014. The Justice Department is expected to challenge the judge's findings in a federal appeals court.

Hudson's opinion contradicts court rulings finding the mandate constitutionally permissible.

""An individual's personal decision to purchase -- or decline purchase -- (of) health insurance from a private provider is beyond the historical reach"" of the U.S. Constitution,"" Hudson wrote. ""No specifically constitutional authority exists to mandate the purchase of health insurance.""

A federal judge in Virginia ruled in favor of the administration this month over the purchase requirement issue, mirroring conclusions reached by a judge in Michigan.

Virginia officials had argued that the Constitution's Commerce Clause does not give the government the authority to force Americans to purchase a commercial product -- like health insurance -- that they may not want or need. They equated such a requirement to a burdensome regulation of ""inactivity.""

Virginia is one of the few states in the country with a specific law saying residents cannot be forced to buy insurance.

""I am gratified we prevailed,"" said Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, a conservative Republican elected in 2009. ""This won't be the final round, as this will ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court, but today is a critical milestone in the protection of the Constitution."" mployers, and families with the costs and uncertainty created by this unconstitutional law, and we must take all steps to resolve this issue immediately."""