Gov. Jennifer Granholm, in a sternly worded, hand-delivered letter, has told Attorney General Mike Cox to back off on participating in a Florida lawsuit challenging the federal health care reform bill signed into law earlier this week.
[I]t appears that you have intervened in this lawsuit not merely in your capacity as the Attorney General of Michigan, but have presented yourself as speaking for the state of Michigan. If that is the case, this position appears to have been taken by you unilaterally, without consultation with my office and, so far as I can determine, without consultation with the executive branch agencies specifically charged with regulating health insurance and protecting the public health.
The governor reminded Cox that he’s the attorney, she’s the client and, by the way, the constitutional boss, and he’s taking a position contrary to her interests.
Your position … is directly contrary to the position of this administration. Specifically, it is my view that this long-overdue federal legislation is constitutional and will bring much needed protections to our citizens and businesses. …
Under our Constitution, the duty of the Governor to enforce the Constitution and the laws of the state of Michigan is explicit and is superior to that of the Attorney General. This view is not only consistent with the position and actions taken by your predecessors, but with your own public statements over the past several years.
For example, on March 12, 2003, you told The Detroit Free Press: And any case where the state of Michigan is being sued or a state agency is being sued, she’s the boss, she’s the client. Unless it is clearly unconstitutional, I am obligated to do what she [Governor Granholm] says.
In a letter to me dated July 12, 2005, you declared that “[a]s our client, your wishes and the policy goals of your executive branch agencies are paramount.”
Two important changes since 2005, at least as the Florida lawsuit is concerned: Cox is running for governor and a significant number of Michigan voters don’t like the new health care law.
Granholm told Cox to do an about face.
I am directing you to intervene in the Florida litigation on behalf of the Governor, the state of Michigan, and the Michigan Department of Community Health to uphold the recently enacted federal health care legislation and to protect and preserve the important provisions afforded to our state and its citizens by the new law.
Meanwhile, the reaction from the Cox camp was apparently one of studied indifference. The Michigan Information & Research Service’s Capitol Capsule reports
Cox Spokesman John Sellek said the AG’s office didn’t receive it until around 5 p.m. Once Cox had it in his possession, he apparently didn’t think much of it.
“It’s arrived, it’s somewhere here in a file folder,” Sellek said.
In short, Cox has no plans to stop his suit against the federal government, Sellek said. The Attorney General is empowered to intervene on the behalf of the citizens of Michigan and that’s what he’s doing in this case, which is something — as a former attorney general — she should be aware of.
The suit, according to most legal experts, has about as much of a chance as a snowball in, let’s say, Florida. See, The Michigan Lawyer “Cox says he’ll challenge health care law.”
Update March 25, 2010: Here’s a fun fact about the Florida lawsuit, courtesy of the SBM Blog. See, “What’s NOT in the Attorney Generals’ Complaint Challenging the Constitutionality of Health Care Legislation?”