In his political messages, House Speaker John Boehner hasn’t shown a lot of love to trial lawyers. Boehner has perennially joined his Republican colleagues in supporting tort reform measures they say will “rein in junk lawsuits.”
Yet in practice, Boehner seems to be a big fan of litigation according to a report by Politico. Boehner has used the court system as an essential tool in a number of political battles over his career, and two of those battles are primed to land before the Supreme Court.
As readers know, Boehner spearheaded the effort of House Republicans to defend the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act in federal court after the Obama administration announced that the Department of Justice would no longer do so. Boehner hired outside lawyers to handle the defense (which led to another high-profile legal battle). He then asked for the Justice Department to pay the legal bill.
Boehner also filed legal briefs in the Florida lawsuit challenging constitutionality of last year’s health reform law. Both the health care law challenge and the DOMA case are expected to go to the Supreme Court within the next couple of years.
Boehner has long showed a willingness to take political battles to court – and an ability to win. Following an ethics investigation into then-Speaker Newt Gingrich, Boehner successfully sued Democratic Rep. Jim McDermott and won a $1.2 million judgment.
Supporters say Boehner is simply ensuring proper constitutional procedure.
“He takes very seriously his role under the Constitution and the need to assure that the checks and balances work properly,” Carrie Severino of the Judicial Crisis Network, which filed the health care challenge on Boehner’s behalf, told Politico. “He is making the point that the constitutional limits were exceeded. That’s why we have judicial review.”
A top Democratic staffer stopped short of labeling Boehner’s legal battles hypocritical – noting that “members of Congress have a duty to evaluate the constitutionality of laws that they pass.” Still, the staffer said, “people complain only when their ox is being gored.”