Thursday, June 28, 2012

Predicting Supreme Court Decisions

    Predicting decisions of the United States Supreme Court is a chancy affair, especially with an ideologically divided Court on an ideological issue.
    While I do not ordinarily like to boast, I did predict the outcome of today's ruling on the Affordable Care Act, National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius.
    For months I have been telling people two things. First, the Court will uphold the statute--and particularly the individual mandate--under the Congress' taxing power.
    Second, I have been saying that Chief Justice John Roberts will vote with the majority. In fact, I said this to my wife Jacqueline as I left the house this morning. 
    From Chief Justice Roberts' point of view this is a legacy case. Just as the Warren Court is remembered for Brown v. Board of Education and Miranda v. Arizona, the Roberts Court will be seen in the future as the Court which ruled on health care in the United States. By many accounts, Roger Taney was a great Chief Justice, but he is best remembered for his Dred Scott decision a few years before the Civil War. 
    I have always thought that Chief Justice Roberts did not want his Court to be seen as being on the wrong of history with respect to medical care for Americans. He achieved this result skillfully, ruling that the individual mandate, by forcing people to do something--buy insurance--was beyond the commerce clause powers of the federal government, but that the imposition of a tax on people who do not have health insurance is a reasonable exercise of the taxing power. By also ruling that the federal government cannot coerce the states into providing greater Medicaid coverage, he made a point regarding federalism which is important to conservatives. The decision can be found here.       

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