Media Advisory: Law Professors Available to Speak About Health Care Reform, Potential Supreme Court Showdown

October 5, 2011

The following University of Virginia School of Law professors are available to speak about health care reform and possible action from the U.S. Supreme Court on the issue.

Richard Bonnie
Richard Bonnie

Richard Bonnie

Richard Bonnie is one of the country's foremost experts on health law policy and has written or commented extensively on health care reform in the media.

He is a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies and chair of Virginia's Commission on Mental Health Law Reform, which has spearheaded major reforms in the wake of the Virginia Tech shooting. Among many other positions, he has been associate director of the National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse (1971-73); secretary of the first National Advisory Council on Drug Abuse (1975-80); chair of Virginia's State Human Rights Committee responsible for protecting rights of persons with mental disabilities (1979-85); and chief advisor for the ABA Criminal Justice Mental Health Standards Project (1981-88).

"Most constitutional experts do not expect [a potential Supreme Court ruling] to be a close case," Bonnie wrote in a Richmond Times-Dispatch op-ed. "Congress has the power to regulate individual decisions whether or not to carry health insurance because these decisions, when aggregated, have a significant economic effect on the interstate insurance market and failing to include them would make it less likely that Congress' legitimate regulatory goals will be achieved. Moreover, requiring an individual to buy insurance does not violate any individual right protected by the Constitution." In the media:


Thomas Hafemeister

Thomas Hafemeister

Thomas Hafemeister is an associate professor at the School of Law and an associate professor of medical education in the School of Medicine. Hafemeister teaches courses in medical malpractice and health care quality, bioethics and the law, mental health law, and psychiatry and criminal law, and has published articles on health, public health and mental health care policy, as well as range of other issues, including elder abuse, child abuse, domestic violence, underage drinking, the psychology of jury selection and juror stress, and the criminal justice system. He has written extensively about alternative approaches to medical malpractice in cases of medical error and the effects of pharmaceutical and medical product advertising and marketing on doctor-patient relationships. Hafemeister recently wrote in the Southern Methodist University Law Review: Currently, there are a series of legal challenges to the [Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act] winding their way through the courts, driven primarily by elected Republican officials from various states, claiming, among other things, that the enactment of the PPACA by the Democratic majority exceeded the constitutional authority of the federal government. Ironically, the positions of the two political parties on this constitutional authority could be diametrically reversed should the Republicans ultimately regain power in both houses and succeed in passing a federal medical malpractice reform package, with Democratic officials then asserting that such an enactment exceeds the constitutional power of Congress." In the media:


Margaret Foster Riley

Margaret Foster Riley

Margaret (Mimi) Foster Riley teaches health law at the School of Law and in the Department of Public Health Sciences at UVA's School of Medicine. Riley teaches a seminar that focuses on the health care reform debate and has written and presented extensively about biomedical research, genetics, reproductive technologies, stem cell research, animal biotechnology, health disparities and chronic disease. She serves as chair of UVA's Embryonic Stem Cell Research Oversight Committee and as legal advisor to the Health Sciences Institutional Review Board, which is responsible for reviewing all human-subject research at UVA involving medically invasive procedures. "The Supreme Court's ruling on the individual mandate case may have implications for the federal government's power under the commerce clause that go far beyond health reform," Riley said."My hunch is that the court will be very sensitive to that fact. But even if the court were to rule that the individual mandate were unconstitutional, I don't believe that it would make the Affordable Care Act legally unsustainable.The individual mandate is designed to address the problem of adverse selection — the fact that purchasers of insurance would be skewed towards people with health problems who are more expensive to insure. Although there are alternative solutions to that problem, they may be much less fair and have drastic financial implications for unlucky individuals. In any event, the political implications of a Supreme Court ruling — in either direction — may, at least in the short run, dwarf the legal implications." In the media:

  • "135,000 Uninsured Americans Will Die Before Health Reform Takes Effect, Analysis Finds" (The Raw Story, 12/15/2009)
  • "Reinventing Life" (UVA Magazine, 3/08/2010)
  • "U.Va. Researchers Happy About Funding for Stem Cell Research" (WCAV, 3/9/2009)
  • "UVA Law Class Exploring Animal Law Issues" (NBC 29, 11/09/2009)
  • "UVA Seminar Focuses on Animal Law" (Charlottesville Daily Progress, 11/06/2009)


Frederick Schauer

Frederick Schauer

Frederick Schauer is one of the nation's leading experts in constitutional law and theory. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, has held a Guggenheim Fellowship, has been vice president of the American Society for Political and Legal Philosophy and chair of the Committee on Philosophy and Law of the American Philosophical Association, and was a founding co-editor of the journal Legal Theory. Schauer is a David and Mary Harrison Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Virginia. Previously he served for 18 years as Frank Stanton Professor of the First Amendment at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, where he has served as academic dean and acting dean, and before that was a professor of law at the University of Michigan. Twenty years ago, I would have said that the commerce clause challenge was either preposterous or frivolous," he told Now, I think it is a very, very, very long shot." To say this [health reform] bill and the entire health care industry doesn't have significant interstate economic effect is a much, much, much more tenuous argument," Schauer said. So with that, I would predict, with pretty strong odds, that the case is a loser." In the media:


Douglas Laycock

Douglas Laycock

Douglas Laycock is one of the nation's leading authorities on the law of remedies and also on the law of religious liberty.

Before joining Virginia's faculty in 2010, Laycock served as the Yale Kamisar Collegiate Professor of Law at the University of Michigan Law School. Prior to that he taught for 25 years at the University of Texas and for five years at the University of Chicago. Laycock has testified frequently before Congress and has argued many cases in the courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court.

Laycock was quoted recently in The New York Times as saying his is skeptical of claims that the health reform law is unconstitutional on the grounds that Congress' power to set rules for commerce does not extend to regulating "inactivity," such as choosing to be uninsured.

In the media:

Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.

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