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Patrick Quinlan
Patrick Quinlan
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Is Florida’s Attorney General Putting Politics Before the People?


As a Floridian, I am angry. As a trial lawyer, I am furious. Our Attorney General, Bill McCollum — a man who wants to be the Governor of this state — has filed a lawsuit seeking to have the new health insurance reform law (the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) declared unconstitutional.

I graduated from law school and moved to Florida in 1987. So my entire legal career has chronologically coincided with the Florida tort reform movement, a multi-million dollar effort, funded by large corporations, to convince the public that the unholy alliance of trial lawyers, with their “frivolous lawsuits,” and activist judges, who override the legislative will of the people, are the root of all evil in this world. Diatribe that is simply not the truth and is not supported by statistics, evidence, or facts.

Mr. McCollum has certainly been a champion of tort reform:

  • As a Congressman, Mr. McCollum signed a pledge to support a hard cap of $250,000 on non-economic (human suffering) damages;
  • He supported an amendment to limit attorney contingency fees in medical liability cases.
  • He has supported limitations on punitive damages.
  • He has repeatedly claimed that reform is necessary “to stem the endless tide of litigation.
  • During his failed 2004 campaign for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate, Mr. McCollum criticized Mel Martinez for working with the Florida Academy of Trial Lawyers.
  • In 2006, he decried "activist judges going beyond the language of the constitution.

The current McCollum for Governor website lists “the important issue of tort reform” as one of the five key issues on which he is running. It includes a section attacking Democratic candidate Alex Sink for being a “friend of the trial lawyers” and failing to recognize that “frivolous lawsuits pose a major challenge to Florida’s ability to recruit and retain businesses.”

Yet I have seen few lawsuits more frivolous than the one just filed, on behalf of the citizens of the State of Florida, by Attorney General Bill McCollum. The focus of the lawsuit is the requirement to buy health insurance, which was actually the brainchild of Republican Senators in 1993 (who, of course, are compelled to say they now realize that their idea was unconstitutional).

The Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution gives the federal government the power “to regulate commerce … among the several states.” For decades, the United States Supreme Court has held that Congress may regulate economic activity if it substantially affects or obstructs interstate commerce, as the health care industry most certainly does. In 1937, the Supreme Court specifically approved other types of federally mandated insurance: Social Security and federal unemployment compensation, both funded by taxes on employers and employees. Steward Machine Co. v. Davis, 301 U.S. 548 (1937); Helvering v. Davis, 301 U.S. 619 (1937).

A ruling against the health care reform law thus depends, not only on the work of trial lawyers, but upon activist judges going beyond the language of the constitution and overriding the will of the people as expressed through the legislature.

Bill McCollum is no stranger to high profile legal proceedings. He first gained national notoriety in 1998 as one of the House Managers of President Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial. Would it not be an interesting irony if Mr. McCollum was himself impeached for wasting taxpayer money on a grandstanding, politically-motivated, frivolous lawsuit?


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  1. Mike Bryant says:
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    All very good points. They have no idea what the legal basis for the claim is and the hypocrisy of the action is so clear. So what’s next for them? Maybe Social Security or Medicare? Seems to have some of the same smell to it.

  2. Joe says:
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    Dude – US v. Lopez – 514 US 549.

    # the channels of interstate commerce
    # the instrumentalities of interstate commerce, or persons or things in interstate commerce
    # activities that substantially affect or substantially relate to interstate commerce

    Health care reform does not fall into those limits of congress’ power under the Commerce Clause.The attempt at health care reform is illegal.

  3. Mike Bryant says:
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    A gun case, yep that didn’t make any difference. Not sure who you mean by Dude, but your points are what I have been seeing to support the hypocrisy. Hopefully, the pure politics of the argument will be seen by the people that benefit from what is a limited but correct step in the right direction.

  4. up arrow

    Do you think Floridians will receive an “unbiased” investigation into FDLG & ERIN CULLARO?

    Will this only be “window dressing” for the upcoming election?


  5. nobody important says:
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    Hey this question is a no brainer right out of the box, let me tell you my personal experience with this AG, first off I never met the dude, and there is nothing wrong with this because I am no special person and meeting him is not important to me or him.

    But I can speak to his office as I have had a running with some of them and they are vicious people for the main part, this is my personal take, so I am not talking out of any body’s else’s hat here.

    I had a problem with FPL and the natural plunder they inflict on Florida, so I told the AG about this, by way of a complaint, guess what? I got no answer, none.

    Then I made a complaint about Marshall C. Watson esq and his fake assignments of Mortgage, and twice I got no answer, none, then I went to tally with some Friends and we went to his office with a camera man friend, and decided to get in the AG`s face, we saw his colors, plus we as, informed homed homeowners, found out that his right hand woman was foofing the signatures, to help a certain law group, steal houses en mass in Fla, but he did the Dame nothing, went after the law group which is known to be owned by a foreign group of people(Chinese) and thus no value to him, but the Dame, who in fact committed a crime is done nothing.

    The Dame if I recall is cushy with FPL, getting them more money and such, then while we were in Tally, he sent over this nice man to calm us down and win us over, in the weeks that went by, he came to Miami for a powwow, looking for some votes riding in on the homeowners horse, that he Russell-ed from the homeowners, so I called up asking for a table to talk to the same home owner too, as I know that all of these homeowner meetings are normally, just shams and no doubt this may and in fact was one of them, well this rude chick from the AG office called me up with her cheeky self tells me why and explained to me why I could not get a table , truth is I was agreeing with her reasons and I told her this, on the onset. Well the chick decided to call my boss in the end, as he is a lawyer, so they have pull with him if you know what I mean, and this shut me down.

    I do not think he is worth it for a vote, But before that, this other dude called me back to tell me that I needed to wait till a certain lady comes back from vacation before I could take a complaint I had on assignments of mortgage and the lawyers of Florida to rub the situation in a bit more, the dude basically told me that nothing will be done in the end and that it was the useless Bar, that regulated the lawyers and not a thing will happen in the end, we saw this with Goldman Sacks.

    So coming full circle back to the question, the answer is yes, and since he harbors corruption at the present and done nothing, what do you actually expect.

  6. up arrow

    I see your reference to:
    United States v. Lopez, 514 U.S. 549 (1995)

    You may want to “read ahead” a little.
    Gonzales v. Raich, 545 U.S. 1 (2005):

    The United States Supreme Court, with Justice Scalia in the majority, held that Congress had the power, under the Commerce Clause, to criminalize the manufacture, distribution, or possession of marijuana to intrastate growers and users of marijuana for medical purposes, because the law was rationally related to the regulation of interstate commerce in marijuana. “Our case law firmly establishes Congress’ power to regulate purely local activities that are part of an economic ‘class of activities’ that have a substantial effect on interstate commerce.” 545 U.S. at 17. In his dissent, Justice Thomas wrote: “If the Federal Government can regulate growing a half-dozen cannabis plants for personal consumption (not because it is interstate commerce, but because it is inextricably bound up with interstate commerce), then Congress’ Article I powers — as expanded by the Necessary and Proper Clause — have no meaningful limits.” Whether Justice Thomas is right that there are now no meaningful limits on Congress’ Commerce Clause power, it is certainly true that the Federal Government can regulate an $854 billion industry.

    Charles Fried, who served as the United States Solicitor General during the Reagan administration, said recently that “though there are a lot of things to object in this [law], and I would be the first to say so, the constitution is not one of them.” In fact, Mr. Fried is so sure that Congress has the power to enact health care reform that he vowed to eat a hat made of kangaroo skin on Fox News if the Supreme Court declares the law unconstitutional.

  7. up arrow

    Pat beat me to it. Clearly, health care is well within the scope of the commerce clause as it has been interpreted for well neigh 70 years.

    Medical care in this country undoubtedly “substantially affects” interstate commerce under, e.g., Wickard v. Filburn (1942)–upon which Lopez was drawing in part.