Attorney general's political opinions not relevant in lawsuits

A judge ruled appropriately that McKenna should not have to include his personal political beliefs in legal arguments on behalf of the state.


Attorney General Rob McKenna continues to take political heat for his decision to join the state of Washington in a lawsuit now before the U.S. Supreme Court aimed at overturning the Affordable Care Act, President Obama's health-care overhaul.

Political disagreement is to be expected. McKenna is an elected official who holds a partisan office. He is a Republican, so it's not surprising Democrats disagree with his approach.

In addition, McKenna is now running for governor, which paints an even bigger political bull's-eye on his back.

But some of his political detractors went a bit too far when they went to court in an effort to force McKenna to mesh his personal and political opinions with the legal opinions he offers as attorney general.

Dozens of women represented by attorneys allied with the Democratic Party contended McKenna should be required to argue to the Supreme Court what he has said publicly -- that the entire Affordable Care Act should not be struck down if the high court invalidates its controversial requirement that most adults maintain private health insurance.

King County Superior Court Judge Sharon Armstrong this week appropriately struck down the effort. She said McKenna has maintained a "consistent legal position" in the case by signing his name to briefs that seek to overturn the entire health-care law.

But, she added, McKenna's public statements that he wants the individual mandate overturned -- but not more popular provisions such as the prohibition on insurers denying coverage for pre-existing medical conditions -- were merely "political statements" by an elected official.

"The Court lacks authority to second-guess the attorney general's legal strategy in the health-care reform litigation, whatever the wisdom of his legal strategy. Plaintiffs do not establish that Attorney General McKenna's legal strategy is arbitrary or capricious," Armstrong's ruling stated.

Legal strategies -- like business strategies -- aren't built on personal opinions but on reaching objectives and following guidelines. In the case made by several states' attorneys general to overturn Obamacare based on the demands it imposes on states, the legal strategy was reached through a consensus built on trying to win in court.

Many people in many professions take stands they are not 100 percent vested in as an individual but it is what is agreed upon by all involved as is seen as the argument likely to prevail.

This, however, does not mean McKenna's political statements on Obamacare are irrelevant. They should be considered as McKenna campaigns for the office of governor.

And the decisions McKenna has made as attorney general should also be considered by voters when judging whether to support his bid for governor.

But political opinions and political rhetoric are not germane to legal arguments made by an elected state attorney general.


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