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City of Seattle
Ed Murray, Mayor

SUBJECT: Supreme Court to Decide Challenge to AG's Role in Health Care Suit

7/6/2010  4:00:00 PM
Kimberly Mills  (206) 684-8602

On Nov. 18 the Washington Supreme Court will hear the City of Seattle’s request that Attorney General Rob McKenna be compelled to withdraw the state from a multistate challenge to the constitutionality of health care reform legislation that Congress passed earlier this year.

“Arguably at stake is not the fate of the underlying federal lawsuit but the role of the attorney general in state government,” court Commissioner Steven Goff said in overruling McKenna’s motion to dismiss on Friday, July 2.

“Petitioner urges that the attorney general lacks authority to independently institute federal litigation to assert his vision of state interests,” Goff said.

“Suffice it to say that the issues in the case seem to me to be sufficiently debatable and important as to call for a decision of the court rather than its commissioner.”

"Indeed, Commissioner Goff got it exactly right," City Attorney Pete Holmes said. "This issue demands review by the full court. It is our belief that Mr. McKenna does not have the authority to take this cynical, partisan action in the name of the State of Washington."

The City argues that McKenna overstepped his authority when he joined more than a dozen state attorneys general in trying to overturn the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. According to the City’s petition, McKenna has “only the powers expressly given by the state legislature,” none of which “grant authority for (him) to make the State of Washington a plaintiff in the Florida case without a request by the governor or any other state officer.”

In addition to describing the City’s role in providing health care, the petition notes how important reform will be to Seattleites. In 2005 residents expressed their concern about inequities in health care coverage when they approved – by 69.5 percent – an advisory ballot measure that stated: “Every person in the United States should have the right to health care of high quality and the Congress should immediately enact legislation to implement this right.”

In March the City Council echoed that desire when it adopted, and Mayor Mike McGinn signed, a resolution supporting the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and opposing McKenna’s move to contest it.

Read Court Commissioner's Ruling


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