Judge Vinson’s Opinion Striking Down The Affordable Care Act Contains At Least 40 Errors

Judge Roger Vinson’s opinion striking down the Affordable Care Act has been widely criticized by progressives and conservatives alike, and for good reason. I combed through Vinson’s opinion with my colleagues Neera Tanden and Tony Carrk, and identified at least 40 glaring factual and legal errors in the opinion:

In the accompanying interactive examination of Vinson’s opinion, we show how he effectively writes an entire provision of the Constitution out of the document. How he butchers history, thumbs his nose at binding Supreme Court precedent, and relies on a constitutional theory that George Washington would find shocking. As we explain, even conservative legal scholars have questioned Vinson’s reasoning. And he wholly misunderstands health care and how it works.

We also explain that one section of Vinson’s opinion was lifted from a brief filed by an organization that has been labeled a hate group. And when Vinson somehow concludes that the Boston Tea Party renders the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional, we take apart that argument, too.

As an example of the kind of downright sloppy errors that are pervasive in Vinson’s opinion, the judge at one point in the opinion makes the implausible claim that “[t]t was not until 1887, one hundred years after ratification, that Congress first exercised its power to affirmatively and positively regulate commerce among the states.” This is a truly remarkable claim — and one that Vinson cites no authority to support — but it also took me exactly 10 minutes with LexisNexis to prove Vinson wrong:


Vinson is wrong: George Washington signed a law regulating interstate commerce.

The first Congress passed, and President Washington signed, “An act for registering and clearing vessels, regulating the coasting trade, and for other purposes,” which required the owners of U.S. ships to register their vessels and even contained special rules governing ships traveling from Baltimore to Philadelphia. [“An Act for Registering and Clearing Vessels, Regulating the Coasting Trade, and for other purposes,” Wikisource.”]

There are, of course, at least 39 other errors in Vinson’s opinion, but it really tells you all you need to know about the quality of his reasoning that he saw no problem with fabricating a facially absurd claim about American history that any minimally competent lawyer could debunk in less time than it takes to brew a cup of tea.

The interactive examination of Vinson’s opinion appears below (click on the yellow text to read why Vinson is wrong):