The most intense week of news coverage for ACA-related litigation will only become more heavily so tomorrow, as Judge Roger Vinson (N.D. Fla.) will hold a hearing on the parties' respective motions for summary judgment in Florida v. HHS. As with Judge Hudson's decision Monday in Virginia v. Sebelius, what Judge Vinson decides on the constitutional issues is, as a technical legal matter, irrelevant. His judgment will undoubtedly be appealed, and appellate review of legal questions is de novo.Such contempt for what the district judge does — "as a technical legal matter, irrelevant." But nontechnically, there's a "political dimension" — and that matters.
[T]he more federal judges who invalidate the ACA (or a substantial portion thereof), the more traction and legitimacy those arguments gain. This not only affects current political debates about modifications to the ACA, but it also alters the context in which the Supreme Court will ultimately decide the constitutional questions. In short, the atmospherics--though only atmospherics--are important.So district judges only matter in the dimension where they don't really belong: politics? Oh, and influencing the Supreme Court — or "alter[ing] the context" in which the Supreme Court operates? Is that not a legal matter? Or... it's a legal matter but not a technical legal matter? There's technical law and there's atmospheric law?
The district judge — in this view — doesn't have any real power. He's more like a journalist — or a law blogger — fogging up the atmosphere with feelings about what the answer ought to be — some sort of miasma that might coalesce into a context.
This ties back to our discussion earlier in the week — here and here — about attempts to shape legal opinion by laughing at arguments — trying to create a social context in which smart people — and the people who want to look or believe they are smart — somehow just know that they're not supposed to take certain arguments seriously.
Who needs technical law when you can do atmospheric law?