Correction to This Article
Earlier versions of this article, including in the print edition of The Washington Post, misstated the title of U.S. District Court Judge Henry E. Hudson's memoir, "Quest for Justice." This version has been corrected.

Conservative judge considers Va. attorney general's suit against health-care reform

U.S. District Court Judge Henry E. Hudson struck down on Monday a key facet of the federal health-care reform law.
U.S. District Court Judge Henry E. Hudson struck down on Monday a key facet of the federal health-care reform law. (Jay Paul For The Washington Post)
By Rosalind S. Helderman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 7, 2010; 10:12 PM

Michael Vick, currently enjoying a dazzling comeback season as quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles, has a perhaps unusual fan: The man who sentenced him to almost two years in federal prison for running a dog-fighting operation in Virginia.

"He's an example of how the system can work," said U.S. District Court Judge Henry E. Hudson, an aggressive former prosecutor who surprised no one who knew him when he sentenced Vick to a 23-month term in 2007.

"He's having a terrific season," Hudson said in an interview. "I'm very happy for him. I wish him the best of success."

The Vick case brought a level of publicity that Hudson, 63, had encountered on occasion over a long career as commonwealth attorney of Arlington County, a U.S. attorney for Virginia and director of the U.S. Marshals Service.

But in the long run, the Vick trial may pale in comparison to the case Hudson is now weighing. Sometime this month, he will rule in a case filed by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R) challenging the constitutionality of the nation's sweeping health-care overhaul.

Two other federal judges have ruled that the law passes constitutional muster. No judge has ruled the law unconstitutional. Many observers think Hudson will be the first.

That prediction is built partly on Hudson's roots in Republican politics. He was elected Arlington's commonwealth attorney as a Republican, briefly ran against U.S. Rep. James P. Moran (D-Va.) in 1991 and has received all of his appointments - as U.S. attorney, as a Fairfax County Circuit Court judge in 1998 and to the federal bench in 2002 - from Republicans.

Observers also noted Hudson's skeptical courtroom questioning of lawyers defending the law on behalf of President Obama this summer and fall and his written opinion in July rejecting a motion to dismiss the suit out of hand.

"I think he will do something quite similar to [his ruling on] the motion to dismiss," said Carl Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond School of Law who has been following the case and has hosted Hudson for lectures numerous times. "He'll tailor it and focus it more and refine it. But I doubt he will depart very significantly from his rulings there."

The Virginia suit is one of more than 15 that have been filed around the country challenging the law, including another suit filed jointly by 20 state attorneys general in Florida.

Advocates for the law are bracing for the possibility that Hudson or the Florida judge could strike down the law, noting that both are Republican appointees. After inevitable appeals, the law's constitutionality will ultimately be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Some have called on Hudson to recuse himself from the case because he owns stock in a campaign-consulting company that has done work for the Republican National Committee and other conservative groups. Cuccinelli also paid Campaign Solutions Inc. for $9,000 of work this year and last. When Hudson's investment became public, Cuccinelli canceled his account with the firm.

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