How personal views, not the law, often drives the Supreme Court

justice robertsby DonkeyHotey

Roberts switched views to uphold health care law
[Via CBS News]

Chief Justice John Roberts initially sided with the Supreme Court’s four conservative justices to strike down the heart of President Obama’s health care reform law, the Affordable Care Act, but later changed his position and formed an alliance with liberals to uphold the bulk of the law, according to two sources with specific knowledge of the deliberations.

Roberts then withstood a month-long, desperate campaign to bring him back to his original position, the sources said. Ironically, Justice Anthony Kennedy – believed by many conservatives to be the justice most likely to defect and vote for the law – led the effort to try to bring Roberts back to the fold.


One has to worry about anonymous sources in such a story. The fact the Kennedy gets such a positive spin makes one believe that his people leaked this.

If it is true, there are a couple of things I’d like to point out. One is that, even though I agree partially with the final result, the path to that decision seems to rely less on the law than on the ‘gut instincts’ of one judge. Even he could not adequately explain his decision, as I think can be seen in the mess of an assent he wrote. Not the best way to deal with something so important.

Second is the fact that this was leaked at all. Usually the Supreme Court presents a unified face. It helps their credibility, especially when making tough decisions. It keeps the facade that laws are what is important, not men/women. But this case seems to have destroyed that, with this story being leaked to hurt one justice while making other justices seem great. That the decisions were all personal not legal.

I do not think it is great for America and its rule of law for the Supreme Court to be as damaged as it is now. It may well be that it would have been better to have a clean 5-4 decision against than this mess of a decision. We will have to see how this all plays out, whether the petulant emotions and visible anger of so many justices can be dealt with.

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