Courts - Mississippi 3 residents sue over health care law

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (AP) -- Three Mississippi residents have filed suit in federal court challenging the Obama Administration's new health care law, a newspaper reported.

The suit was filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Hattiesburg on behalf of Richard Conrad of Laurel, Ryan S. Walters of Hattiesburg and Michael E. Shotwell of Ellisville, according to a report in The Clarion-Ledger. However, a copy of the lawsuit couldn't be found Sunday on the federal court's Web site.

The plaintiffs' attorneys, state Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Ellisville, and K. Doug Lee of Hattiesburg, didn't immediately return messages left by The Associated Press on Sunday.

Conrad said the federal government is overstepping its bounds by forcing individuals to purchase health insurance to comply with the recently passed law.

"To be an American citizen and be forced to do anything is kind of contrary to our nature," Conrad said. "If I understand the constitution correctly, we've never been made to purchase or buy a product or service from a private entity."

The plaintiffs say they oppose a mandate, effective in 2014, that would require citizens to purchase health insurance or pay a fine.

McDaniel told the newspaper that the plaintiffs want the court to rule that the Health Care Act's mandate violates the U.S. Constitution's Commerce Clause. He said the Commerce Clause gives Congress the authority to regulate commerce but does not give it unlimited power.

So far, 14 states, including Florida, are challenging the bill President Barack Obama signed last month.

An aide for Gov. Haley Barbour has said Mississippi plans to join other states in challenging the constitutionality of the law once Florida files an amended lawsuit.

Barbour's lawsuit would not "necessarily preclude individual plaintiffs from attempting to protect their constitutional rights," McDaniel said.

"The difference is ours is more specific in attacking the mandate from a multifaceted approach," he said. "His lawsuit, by necessity, would encompass additional issues," such as Medicaid.

Several constitutional experts say it is unlikely the U.S. Supreme Court would strike down the new law. University of Mississippi constitutional law professor George Cochran said he believes the case will be difficult to win.

"They face an uphill battle in light of a precedent that dates back to 1937," Cochran said.

Published: Tue, Apr 6, 2010