Forgive me for being late with regard to Florida federal Judge Roger Vinson’s stay of his original ruling that Obamacare is unconstitutional and therefore must not be implemented.  Over at Health Care Lawsuits my colleague Hadley Heath was prompt and perceptive in commenting.

And this morning on The Corner Avik Roy adds his thoughts on why the stay-rather than being a setback for those who oppose the government takeover of heath care-is actually a devastating blow for Obamacare. You might not know this if you only read the mainstream media.

The stay came in response to the government’s belated “motion to clarify.” Calling Vinson’s response to the motion “a doozy,” Roy writes:

Vinson granted a stay on the condition that the White House file an expedited appeal with either the Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court by next Thursday, March 10. In other words, Vinson is allowing the administration to continue implementing the law in the near term in exchange for accelerating the final resolution of the case by the appeals court and eventually the Supreme Court.

Vinson’s new ruling can justly be described as a smack-down of the administration. Quoting an appellate ruling, he notes, “A declaratory judgment is a real judgment, not just a bit of friendly advice.” He sardonically recounts the administration’s stalling tactics, and describes their active “misrepresentation” of judicial procedure. Here’s Vinson’s response to the government’s motion (emphases added):

So to “clarify” my order and judgment: The individual mandate was declared unconstitutional. Because that “essential” provision was unseverable from the rest of the Act, the entire legislation was void. This declaratory judgment was expected to be treated as the “practical” and “functional equivalent of an injunction” with respect to the parties to the litigation. This expectation was based on the “longstanding presumption” that the defendants themselves identified and agreed to be bound by, which provides that a declaratory judgment against federal officials is a de facto injunction. To the extent that the defendants were unable (or believed that they were unable) to comply, it was expected that they would immediately seek a stay of the ruling, and at that point in time present their arguments for why such a stay is necessary, which is the usual and standard procedure. It was not expected that they would effectively ignore the order and declaratory judgment for two and one-half weeks, continue to implement the Act, and only then file a belated motion to “clarify.”

The White House lamely tried to cite some case law in order to argue that the government was entitled to ignore Vinson’s ruling until the case had wound its way up the appeals-court ladder. But that’s not how the judicial system works. As Vinson writes, “The defendants’ selective quoting from those cases – to suggest that the federal government may simply ignore a declaratory judgment by a district court until the appeals process has fully run its course – borders on misrepresentation.”

Conservatives may hate particular rulings of courts, but they know they have to obey them. It’s the law. Very disturbingly, the federal government under the current administration appears not to have the slightest compunction about non-compliance. News of the administration’s next move is eagerly awaited.