Monday, July 2, 2012

The Supreme Court Ruling

When the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to uphold the “Affordable Care Act” last Thursday, I was, to say the least, taken by surprise. This court has the reputation of being the most conservative since WWII and I, along with many others, was shocked. I think we were prepared for a 5-4 decision in the other direction, with (Chief) Justice Roberts leading the dissent.

Justice Roberts, however, is a very smart man. He is only 57 years old which is between 20 and 30 years younger than most of his colleagues. He knows he will likely have another 30 years to serve barring unforeseen illnesses or any of those unpredictable life situations we all face. He also understands the reputation the Court has incurred with its 2000 Bush v. Gore ruling along with the infamous Citizens United decision in January, 2011. To add one more flagrant partisan ruling to his legacy would not only jeopardize his reputation as Chief Justice, but would hinder progress to further the Court’s conservative agenda. By voting with the liberals, he has provided us with the judicial restraint he promised during his own confirmation hearings.

That he confounded the dissenting judges is evident and uplifting. The scoop is that  Justices Scalia, Thomas and Alito were not only surprised but miffed that their leader could defect.  It is said that Justice Kennedy, who has created his own list of surprise rulings, tried for a full month to convince Justice Roberts to re-join the conservatives, to no avail.  I maintain that rulings by any of them should not become predictable. That is why I’ve so admired Justice Kennedy who seemed to be the lone maverick on the Court until now.

Whether the mandate is a tax or a penalty and whether it is an action or non-action that Congress has or has not any authority over through Commerce, I simply don't know.  And since the ruling, it appears that these concepts have been revised and re-revised. 

However, even more significant to me in his individual opinion, was Justice Roberts' statement that “. . . the Court does not express any opinion on the wisdom of the Affordable Care Act. Under the Constitution, that judgment is reserved to the people.”  Doesn’t this point to limited authority by the Courts, whose judges are appointed -- , not elected as is the President and the Congress? (And for a term of life!)  I like this man.

Perhaps I can live with the idea of Justice Roberts leading this court for the next 30 years, after all. I would prefer term limits for all three branches of the government, but in the meantime, we appear to have a Chief Justice with a streak of stubbornness and an extremely savvy political  awareness.

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