Clyde Roger Vinson

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Clyde Roger Vinson
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Court Information:
United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida
Title:   Senior Judge
Position:   Seat #3
Station:   Pensacola, FL
Alternative court:  United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court
Alternative term:  5/04/2006 - 5/18/2013
Appointed by:   Ronald Reagan
Active:   10/5/1983 - 3/31/2005
Chief:   1997 - 2004
Senior:   3/31/2005 - Present
Preceded by:   Lynn Higby
Succeeded by:   John Smoak
Personal History
Born:   1940
Hometown:   Cadiz, KY
Undergraduate:   Naval Academy, B.A., 1962
Law School:   Vanderbilt University Law School, J.D., 1971

Clyde Roger Vinson is a Article III federal judge for the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida. He joined the court in 1983 after being nominated by President Ronald Reagan. Vinson is serving on senior status. Vinson also served on the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. His term ran from May 4, 2006 until May 18, 2013.[1]

Early life and education

A native of Kentucky, Vinson graduated from the Naval Academy with his bachelor's degree in 1962 then served six years on active duty on the US Navy as a Lieutenant from 1962 to 1968 during the Vietnam conflict before completing his juris doctorate degree at Vanderbilt University Law School in 1971.

Professional career

Vinson spent his entire pre-judicial legal career as a private practice attorney in Florida from 1971 to 1983.

Judicial career

Northern District of Florida

On the recommendation of U.S. Senator Paula Hawkins, Vinson was nominated by President Ronald Reagan on September 9, 1983 to a seat vacated by Lynn Higby, as Higby assumed senior status. Vinson was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on October 4, 1983 on a senate vote and received commission on October 5, 1983. Vinson served as the chief judge from 1997 to 2004 before later assuming senior status on March 31, 2005. He was succeeded in this position by John Smoak.

Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court

Vinson also served on the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. He was appointed on May 4, 2006 and his term ended on May 18, 2013.[2]

Notable cases

Ruling on federal healthcare (2010)

     United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida (State of Florida, et al., v. Unites States Department of Health and Human Services, et al., 3:10-cv-91-RV/EMT)

On January 31, 2011, Judge Vinson ruled that the federal healthcare law signed into law on March 23, 2010 by President Barack Obama is unconstitutional.[3] Vinson's ruling says that the requirement in the law that Americans must purchase health insurance coverage -- the provision commonly known as the "individual mandate" -- is not within the legal bounds of what the U.S. Congress is allowed to do under the Commerce Clause. Vinson's ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed against the federal healthcare law the day it was signed by President Obama. Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum and nineteen other state attorneys general filed the original lawsuit and after the tumultuous 2010 midterm elections, six more states, among them Kansas, Maine, Ohio, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, and Wyoming, joined in challenging the constitutionality of the federal law.

In his ruling, Vinson wrote that the case is not about "whether the Act is wise or unwise legislation, or whether it will solve or exacerbate the myriad problems in our healthcare system," but is instead about whether the federal healthcare legislation coheres with "the Constitutional role of the federal government."[4]

On the issue of the "individual mandate," a provision of the Affordable Patient Protection Act of 2009 that requires all individuals to purchase healthcare coverage, Vinson argued that it would be a "radical departure from existing case law to hold that Congress can regulate inactivity under the Commerce Clause," and that if the federal government was given such extensive power it would not be a stretch to suggest that "Congress could do almost anything it wanted."[4] He dismissed the federal government's defense of placing the legislation within the boundaries of the Commerce Clause, arguing that the uninsured "are actively engaged in interstate commerce based on the purported 'unique' features of the much broader healthcare market," contending that if Congress asserts power that exceeds the authority granted to it by the Constitution, then it is unconstitutional, "regardless of the purported uniqueness of the context in which it is being asserted."[4] Vinson held that since economic "activity" is required for Congress to regulate an area of interstate commerce, the individual mandate---which penalizes those who refuse to purchase health insurance--exceeds Congressional powers under the Commerce Clause.

After ruling that the individual mandate is unconstitutional, Vinson's decision turned to the question of "severability," a contractual concept that allows for the remainder of a contract to remain enforceable even if other parts of it are held to be either illegal or unenforceable. Vinson wrote that no such provision exists within the Affordable Patient Protection Act, although an earlier version of the bill did include one. Vinson noted that analysts have said that since the individual mandate "collects most of the money that is supposed to flow into the system from millions of additional participants," the loss of this portion of the law makes its execution "severely compromised and could rock the foundation of other provisions in the legislation."[5] In comparing the healthcare law to a finely crafted watch, Vinson stated that there were "simply too many moving parts in the Act and too many provisions dependent (directly and indirectly) on the individual mandate" to make severability logistically possible.[4]

In conclusion, Vinson ruled that since "the individual mandate and the remaining provisions are all inextricably bound together in purpose and must stand or fall as a single unit," the entire law must be declared void.[4]

See also

External links


Political offices
Preceded by:
Lynn Higby
Northern District of Florida
Seat #3
Succeeded by:
John Smoak