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Tag Archives: health care

Did Roberts change his vote in the healthcare case?

In the days since the U.S. Supreme Court upheld most of the federal health care law, Supreme Court watchers have been posing a new question about the Court’s deliberations in the case: did Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. change his vote?

According to CBS News’ Jan Crawford, he did – spurring Justice Anthony M. Kennedy to lead a month-long effort to convince Roberts to return to the other side.

“He was relentless,” one of Crawford’s two sources said of Kennedy. “He was very engaged in this.”

According to Crawford’s report:

“It is not known why Roberts changed his view on the mandate and decided to uphold the law. At least one conservative justice tried to get him to explain it, but was unsatisfied with the response, according to a source with knowledge of the conversation.”

Meanwhile, check out Lawyers USA’s analysis of the decisions legal impact.

No plumbers needed at the Supreme Court

The eyes of the nation seem to be on the U.S. Supreme Court as the anticipation over the upcoming decision in the health care challenge reaches a fever pitch.

But something is strange to people who don’t follow the Supreme Court on a regular basis: although the justices and those who work for them know – and have likely known for months – how the Court has ruled in the matter, no one has said a peep.  No need for a plumber – the Supremes don’t leak.

“Everybody, from the ordinary citizen to reporters who are not used to covering the Court, are getting and education about how the Court works,” said veteran Supreme Court litigator Paul Clement yesterday at a media briefing hosted by the National Chamber Litigation Center in Washington.

Given the potential impact of the case on this year’s election, Clement said, “in addition to the Supreme Court press corps, you also have more political reporters who are covering this case. And the thing that I’ve found most amusing is their complete inability to believe that there will not be leaks. They are just so used to covering the other two branches of government that they just assume that leaks are absolutely inevitable and that there is no way in the world you could have a decision this monumental, and have that many people know about it, and have at least presumably half of the people have some beef about what is about to happen, and nobody’s talking about it.”

But at a time when the Court’s popularity numbers are falling, the fact that the Court is setting itself apart in this way is a good thing, Clement concluded.

“I think this is a good thing for the Court,” Clement said. “[M]aybe in the long run … people will have an appreciation that this really is a different branch of government.”

For more Supreme Court news, including a breakdown of all this week’s decisions, see our Supreme Court Report.

Justices will wrap the term by June, then jet off

If you were wondering whether to put off your Fourth of July travel plans for fear that you will miss the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in the health care law case  or in the Arizona immigration law challenge, fear not.

The justices will almost surely wrap up the term, pending blockbuster cases included, by the end of June – the Court’s traditional conclusion time frame. That’s because, according to the AP, the justices have planes to catch.

Several of the justices, who often accept teaching positions during the summers in exotic locales,  are set to begin professorial gigs the first week of July, the AP reports. Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. will be jetting off to Malta. Justices Antonin G. Scalia and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg are headed to Austria. Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr. will be going to Italy.

More here from the AP, and more on all the latest news from the Supreme Court from Lawyers USA’s Supreme Court Report.

Sticks and stones: Will threat of label affect the Court?

Are liberal members of Congress and the press trying to influence the outcome of the Supreme Court health care challenge by threatening to call the nation’s chief justice a name?

That is what a Wall Street Journal editorial asserts. And what is  the nasty label that is designed to sway Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr.? Activist.

The editorial points to recent press coverage suggesting that overturning the health care law would be a radical move tantamount to reversing New Deal era legislation, as well as recent comments made by  Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy on the Senate floor, where he said he hopes Roberts has “a strong institutional sense of the proper role of the judicial branch.”

“The conservative activism of recent years has not been good for the Court,” Leahy said.

The full editorial can be found here, and Lawyers USA’s coverage of the Supreme Court, including the health care case, can be found on our Supreme Court Report.

Did Scalia hint at a health care law KO?

As several of the justices of the Supreme Court spent the off week attending events around the country, members of the media asked them obligatory questions about the pending challenge to the federal health care law, which was heard last week.

Justices usually demur when faced with such requests, refusing to make out-of-court statements on pending cases and sticking to other subjects, like antelope hunting.

But Justice Antonin Scalia took an interesting approach to not answering a question about President Barack Obama’s much discussed “judicial activism” comment, according to the AP (via the WSJ’s Law Blog):

“We don’t respond to criticism,” Scalia said in comments to students at the University of Southern Mississippi. “Judges use what’s known as the rope-a-dope trick. It’s judicial tradition.”

What is a “rope-a-dope,” you ask? Law Blog explains that it’s a boxing move used by Muhammad Ali, whereby a boxer leans against the ropes as his opponent pummels away. The shots that are not blocked are absorbed by the rope’s elasticity. Once the opponent is tired, the boxer has conserved enough energy to make a knockout punch.

So did Scalia suggest that he’d take Obama’s shots for now, only to come back with a ruling that knocks out the health care law? Only nine people know for sure – the justices took their initial vote on the case during a closed-door session last Friday.

The Funniest Justice, week 12: Cruel and unusual laughter

Wednesday, the last of three days of oral arguments on the federal health care reform law, Solicitor General Edwin Kneedler urged the Court to sever any portion of the law held unconstitutional from the rest of the statute.

“Mr. Kneedler, what happened to the Eighth Amendment? You really want us to go through these 2,700 pages?”Justice Scalia asked, drawing loud laughter from the packed courtroom.

It was fitting that during such an historic week at the Court, Scalia would garner an unprecedented number of laughs: a whopping 15, easily earning him the title of the Funniest Justice of the week, and all but cementing his fourth consecutive title for the whole term.

There was apparently plenty to laugh at about the health care law and its individual mandate. In addition’s to Scalia’s comedic quips, Justices Anthony Kennedy, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan each earned three laughs, and Chief Justice John G. Roberts and Justice Sonia Sotomayor each earned one.

With only two weeks to go, here are the standings for the term so far:

Justice Antonin Scalia: 59

Justice Stephen Breyer: 41

Chief Justice John G. Roberts: 25

Justice Anthony Kennedy: 9

Justice Samuel Alito: 5

Justice Elena Kagan: 5

Justice Sonia Sotomayor: 2

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: 1

Justice Clarence Thomas: 0

Health care arguments close, with little closure

For the past 24 hours much of the media has been atwitter over suggestions that after yesterday’s oral arguments, the health care reform law’s individual mandate provision was on life support (sentiment initially expressed by CNN’s Jeffrey Toobin, but not necessarily echoed by others who watched the argument).

But at the close of oral arguments in one of the most closely-watched Supreme Court cases in modern history, one thing is certain: no one is certain about what the Court will do.

After hours of watching the justices question the parties’ positions, argue points with one another, and perhaps even test the strength of their own views through the questions they posed to the attorneys arguing the case, there is no clear majority on most of the crucial issues presented to the Court (my only guess is that the justices will likely not put off deciding the constitutional issues until 2015 under the Anti-Injunction Act, which was argued Monday).

But perhaps the most interesting – and frankly, the most candid – observation of the week came from Justice Antonin Scalia this morning. As the justices and attorneys debated whether the Court had the power to strike down part of the law while leaving the rest intact, or if that act would interfere with Congress’ power, Scalia said:

“[There] is no way that this Court’s decision is not going to distort the congressional process. Whether we strike it all down or leave some of it in place, the congressional process will never be the same.”

Indeed, the outcome of the case will have not only an immense impact legally, but politically as well. Regardless of the outcome, the Supreme Court has already left its mark.

Health Care Challenge, Day 1: Let’s put the whole thing off?

Before the Supreme Court gets to the meat of the health care challenge – the issue of whether Congress had the authority to impose an individual coverage mandate – the Court must first wrestle with an issue none of the parties wanted it to address: whether the challenge can be heard at all.

Today, the first of three days the Court has dedicated to hearing oral arguments on several issues involved in the health care challenge, the Court takes up the Anti-Injunction Act. That law provides that “no suit for the purpose of restraining the assessment or collection of any tax may be maintained in any court by any person.”

In 90 minutes of oral arguments today, the justices will consider whether that law applies to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – most specifically, whether the penalty imposed on individuals who do not purchase health care coverage amounts to a tax.

If the court finds that the law applies, the Court must also decide whether it is a jurisdictional bar to bringing the health care challenge altogether, or whether it is simple a defense which can be raised by the government – which abandoned that argument earlier in the litigation. If the Court rules that it is the former, that would bar challenges to the law until at least 2015, after the law has been fully implemented and penalties have begun to be assessed.

Be sure to bookmark Lawyers USA’s Supreme Court Report for updates on oral arguments in the health care cases, and also for all other newsworthy developments from the Supreme Court. Also, don’t forget to follow DC Dicta on Twitter.

Supremes fast track audio recordings in health care case

Next week, the U.S. Supreme Court will release audio recordings of the health care arguments within hours of each oral argument session.

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday the justices will hear arguments on the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and related issues. While the Court normally releases audio recordings of oral arguments at the end of the week, next week a link to the audio of each day’s argument will be released within a matter of hours.

“Because of the extraordinary public interest in those cases, the Court will provide the audio recordings and transcripts of the oral arguments on an expedited basis through the Court’s Website,” a statement from the Court announcing the plan stated.

Transcripts are usually available on the Court’s website by the afternoon of each oral argument.

Poll: Americans believe politics will influence health care ruling

As Supreme Court watchers gear up for the extended oral arguments in the challenge to the health care law later this month, a new poll reveals that most Americans believe the decision in the case will be based more on politics than law.

Three out of four Americans believe politics will influence the outcome of the ruling, according to a poll by Bloomberg National.

When the results are broken down by political party affiliation, independents seem to have the least faith that the justices will base their votes only on the law – 80 percent believe that politics will be the main consideration. 74 percent of Republicans echoed that sentiment, compared to 67 percent of Democrats.

Meanwhile, in a separate survey of Court-watching academics, lawyers and journalists conducted by the American Bar Association, 85 percent predicted that the law would be upheld and that the court would find the individual mandate requirement constitutional, according to the Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog.