Judge denies injunction in health care lawsuit

SEATTLE — A King County judge has denied a motion to force Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna to alter his filings with the U.S. Supreme Court on the multistate lawsuit seeking to overturn the federal health care law.

The order was released Tuesday, but was signed by King County Superior Court Judge Sharon Armstrong on Friday, in which she denied the preliminary injunction sought by dozens of women and the liberal advocacy group Fuse Washington.

McKenna, a GOP candidate for governor, joined other GOP attorneys general in the federal health care lawsuit more than two years ago. He objected to a provision that required people to buy private health insurance or face a fine. He said that mandate was unconstitutional, though he supported other parts of the federal overhaul. The women’s lawsuit targeted his efforts to overturn the whole law — not just the part he disagrees with.

Earlier this month the women filed the lawsuit against McKenna, alleging that his participation in legal action seeking to overturn the health care law threatens access to comprehensive coverage for women.

The legal action sought a ruling that McKenna violated his ethical duties by asking the Supreme Court to invalidate protections for women’s health care. It claimed his actions go against the wishes of his clients, the residents of Washington state.

In her order, Armstrong wrote that the court “lacks the authority to second-guess the attorney general’s legal strategy in health care reform litigation, whatever the wisdom of his legal strategy.” She wrote that the plaintiffs had not established that McKenna’s litigation strategy was “arbitrary or capricious.”

While the injunction was denied, the lawsuit that was filed earlier this month is still active, though McKenna’s office is seeking to have it dismissed. A hearing on that motion is set for June 22.

McKenna’s campaign manager, Randy Pepple, has said the lawsuit is frivolous and an attempt to change topics in the gubernatorial campaign between McKenna and Democrat Jay Inslee, a former congressman.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs are from the public interest law firm of Smith &Lowney, which has been involved in other high-profile political lawsuits on behalf of Democrats, including a campaign finance-related lawsuit against another GOP gubernatorial candidate, Dino Rossi, in 2008.

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