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EXPERT AVAILABLE: Proposition C Core Probably Would Not Stand up in Court, MU Expert Says

August 2nd, 2010

Story Contact: Nathan Hurst, 573-882-6217,

The views and opinions expressed in this “for expert comment” release are based on research and/or opinions of the researcher(s) and/or faculty member(s) and do not reflect the University’s official stance.

Richard Reuben, the James Lewis Parks Professor of Law at the University of Missouri School of Law.

Richard Reuben, the James Lewis Parks Professor of Law at the University of Missouri School of Law.

COLUMBIA, Mo. – One of the hottest topics on the Aug. 3 Missouri ballot is Proposition C. Richard Reuben, the James Lewis Parks Professor of Law at the University of Missouri School of Law, and an expert on election law believes that while there is a good chance that Missourians will pass the proposition, the vote would eventually be overturned in court.

Proposition C is a proposal to create a law banning the government from forcing Missourians to buy health insurance. The proposition is a response to the recent federal law calling for all U.S. citizens to buy a mandated amount of health insurance. Reuben believes courts would not allow this proposed Missouri statute to stand.

“The Constitution clearly states that a federal law trumps a state law when they come into direct conflict,” Reuben said. “The core of Proposition C, which is the opt-out provision, appears to be in direct conflict with the new federal statute. It’s possible that a court might some of the lesser provisions of Proposition C do not conflict with the health care reform act, and therefore could be upheld.”

Reuben believes Proposition C is much more about politics and less about actually outlawing health care reform.

“The law is so clear, Congress’s intent was so clear, the conflict is so direct that all that can be done is to look at this and believe it is politically driven,” Reuben said. “The Republicans, historically, have been very good at identifying issues like this to rally their base to the polls. In 2004, gay marriage was a big issue. This year it’s health care reform.”

Reuben says that even if Proposition C passes and the courts overturn it, the Republicans will use the vote as a statement against the Obama administration.

“If Proposition C passes, the Republicans will say the vote was a broad referendum on the Obama administration,” Reuben said. “Because the Democrats have been ineffective at creating positive resonance, the Republicans will be able to use Proposition C and others like it to turn the public’s mindset away from several Democrats’ accomplishments, like economic stabilization, healthcare and financial industry reforms. The Democrats could end up hurting at the polls both now and in November.”

Reuben joined the MU School of Law in 2000, coming from Harvard Law School, where he was a Hewlett Senior Fellow in dispute resolution. He earned his doctoral degree in law at Stanford Law School. Reuben covered the U.S. Supreme Court for the American Bar Association Journal, the Los Angeles Daily Journal, San Francisco Daily Journal and other publications for more than a decade.