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Health care judge: A foe in the family

One of the three federal Circuit judges who will review the strongest challenge so far to the new federal health care law has a strong, vocal and public foe of that measure in the family — a daughter, now serving in the House as one of the new class of conservative freshman lawmakers.  Rep. Martha Dubina Roby, a Republican from Montgomery, Ala., was elected last November in the GOP electoral sweep; she defeated an incumbent Democratic moderate, Rep. Bobby Bright.  Roby’s father, Joel Frederick Dubina, is now the chief judge of the Eleventh Circuit Court, and is scheduled to preside at a June 8 hearing as that Court reviews a Florida federal judge’s sweeping decision against the law.

Last year, while campaigning for Alabama’s Second District seat in the House, Martha Roby signed the conservative Club for Growth’s “Repeal It!” pledge.  The signers promised the people of their districts that, if elected, they would “sponsor and support legislation to repeal any federal health care takeover passed in 2010, and replace it with real reforms that lower health care costs without growing government.”

Last January, as a new Representative, she voted in the House to carry out that pledge, joining 244 other members in voting to repeal the law.  “The law,” she said in a one-minute floor speech, “is less about providing health care for all citizens, and more about expanding federal government….If we do not repeal this law, our inaction will serve as nothing less than gross fiscal irresponsibility.”  Early this month, she was one of a group of House freshmen who signed a letter to President Obama urging him to condemn Democrats who had mounted ” ‘Mediscare’ attacks on Republicans.”

Rep. Roby’s Facebook page identifies her relationship to the judge.  Like her father, she has a law degree from Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law.  She was in private law practice before being elected to the Montgomery City Council, where she made a record of opposing tax increases and favoring reduced government spending.

Her father’s place on the Circuit Court panel that will review the constitutionality of key parts of the new health care reform resulted from a random selection procedure that is used to make assignments.  The panel will hear the appeal by the federal government of a decision by Senior U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson on Pensacola, Fla., striking down the entire law.  Judge Vinson found that the law’s requirement that virtually every American must have health insurance by 2014 was unconstitutional, as beyond Congress’s legislative powers.  He found that the provision could not be separated from the remainder of the law, so ruled it unconstitutional in its entirety.  His decision has been put on hold during the appeal.  A group of states and other challengers are appealing parts of Judge Vinson’s ruling that rejected challenges to other provisions in the measure.

The oral argument on the case on June 8 will continue for about two hours.  It will not be available in an audio format online.  Three seasoned appellate advocates will be arguing the case: Acting U.S. Solicitor General Neal K. Katyal for the government, Paul D. Clement of Washington for the challenging states, and Michael Carvin of Washington for the National Federation of Independent Business, another challenger.

Recommended Citation: Lyle Denniston, Health care judge: A foe in the family, SCOTUSblog (May. 25, 2011, 4:20 PM),