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Thursday, June 28, 2012

SCOTUS Rules that Rob McKenna Is a Crappy Lawyer

Posted by on Thu, Jun 28, 2012 at 7:55 AM

The US Supreme Court's decision today to uphold the entirety of the Affordable Care Act (you know, "Obamacare") including the unpopular if obviously constitutional individual mandate, has a lot of impacts here in Washington state, not the least of which being that it proves once again what what an absolutely crappy lawyer attorney general Rob McKenna really is.

Remember, McKenna was instrumental in initiating the lawsuit that forced today's ruling, and spoke confidently on the campaign trail that he and his fellow attorneys general would prevail. He was wrong.

"Our precedent demonstrates that Congress had the power to impose the exaction in Section 5000A under the taxing power, and that Section 5000A need not be read to do more than impose a tax. This is sufficient to sustain it."

Even though an overwhelming majority of constitutional scholars had weighed in that the mandate appeared to be constitutional, perhaps it is unfair to use this ruling to impugn McKenna's legal acumen. Perhaps McKenna merely made the political calculation that the conservative majority on the court would ultimately prove be just as politically unprincipled as he is, and thus toss out the ACA regardless of clearly established precedent?

Perhaps. Not that that take is any more flattering.

The point is that under McKenna's leadership the attorney general's office has an established track record of championing losing, politically motivated cases and opinions. In Goldmark v. McKenna he strenuously argued that the AG has the discretion to deny state officers access to an attorney. The state supreme court said otherwise. In 2010 McKenna's office offered the most contorted reinterpretation of the state's minimum wage law imaginable. Labor and Industries took the rare step of ignoring the AG's official opinion: "We really wanted to correctly implement the law," an L&I spokesperson explained. And McKenna has repeatedly been caught making a legal argument in public that completely contradicted the one he or his attorneys were making in court.

Crappy lawyer indeed.


Comments (8) RSS

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michaelp 1
If memory serves, McKenna was of the belief that the Medicaid portion - states get all funding yanked if they don't expand Medicaid per the ACA - was unconstitutional.

The Court agreed with that, 7-2.

So...while I hate to defend McKenna, on this issue, he actually kind of won, in an expensive, asinine, roundabout way.
Posted by michaelp on June 28, 2012 at 8:04 AM · Report this
Gay Dude for Romney 2
Goldy, the supremes ruled that the govt. cannot use withholding medicare funds to the states as a leverage for them increasing their coverage - so no, the entirity of the bill is not upheld.
Posted by Gay Dude for Romney on June 28, 2012 at 8:07 AM · Report this
Goldy 4
@2: The Medicaid expansion remains in place. In fact, a state's participation in Medicaid has always been voluntary, and not all states chose to participate at the outset. But all eventually did, just like all will eventually choose to participate int he expansion, as otherwise they would be subsidizing Medicaid expansion elsewhere while not providing it to their own citizens.

From McKenna's perspective, representing a state that will surely participate in the Medicaid expansion (barring his own veto) with or without prospective penalties for not participating, this one technical SCOTUS caveat has zero impact on the people McKenna claims to represent.
Posted by Goldy on June 28, 2012 at 8:18 AM · Report this
michaelp 5
@4 - I think more importantly, is that it is such an in the weeds part of the opinion, that it's not really anything McKenna can hang his hat on, or anything that he can be effectively attacked over. It's a lot easier to point out that he joined in the overall lawsuit, and didn't file his own briefing as to the constitutionality of the Medicaid expansion itself.

That's the practical bit of the opinion.

But this is Slog. And arguing for no particular reason is a part of it.
Posted by michaelp on June 28, 2012 at 8:21 AM · Report this
Sachi 6
I was an Assistant AG when Slade Gorton and Ken Eikenberry were Attorneys General. They were both republicans, and Ken was a very conservative one. Yet both men made a point of refusing to be partisan in their work. I am very liberal politically, yet was a pleasure to serve the state under them (and under Ms. Gregoire.)

McKenna, on the other hand, is a partisan hack. I left the office before he was elected, but he embarrasses me even though I am no longer there (and two states away.) It is a damned shame that he has politicized one of offices in state government that should be above that fray.
Posted by Sachi on June 28, 2012 at 8:23 AM · Report this
Pope Peabrain 7
McKenna is bad for Washington. Period. He's proved he sides with the extreme right wing and cannot be trusted to protect the interests of our people.
Posted by Pope Peabrain on June 28, 2012 at 8:41 AM · Report this
Rujax! 8
Hey Rob!!

All that taxpayer money you spent on your crappy partisan crusade?

I want all that back.

Posted by Rujax! on June 28, 2012 at 9:31 AM · Report this
Hear that giant sucking sound? McKenna's campaign polling numbers.
Posted by hmmmmm on June 28, 2012 at 4:45 PM · Report this

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