Last week’s hearing in Texas v. United States convinced a lot of observers, me included, that a district court judge in Texas is poised to declare that all or part of the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional. When and if he does so, the judge might also enter an injunction ordering the administration to stop enforcing the Act everywhere in the country.
Understandably appalled at that possibility, the Maryland attorney general today filed a separate lawsuit in a Maryland district court. Among other things, he’s seeking an injunction requiring the continued enforcement of the law. Depending on how quickly the Maryland case moves, it’s possible we could see dueling injunctions—one ordering the Trump administration to stop enforcing the law, the other ordering it to keep enforcing.
That’s an unholy mess just waiting to happen. Now, it may not come to that. My best guess is that the Texas lawsuit will fizzle: any injunction will likely be stayed pending appeal, either by the Fifth Circuit or the Supreme Court, and the case is going nowhere on the merits. The Maryland lawsuit will likely prove unnecessary.
Even the risk of dueling injunctions, though, is a good argument for thinking that these national injunctions have gotten out of hand: one hard-right judge in Forth Worth shouldn’t have the power to suspend an Act of Congress. It’s an even better argument, more generally, for thinking that we’re channeling too many of our political disputes through the courts.