Obamacare

Justice Elena Kagan

Sounds like a dumb law.

– Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, commenting during her confirmation hearings on Senator Tom Coburn’s attempt to compare the Affordable Care Act to a hypothetical law requiring consumption of fruits and vegetables.

(Senator Coburn wondered if such a law would violate the Commerce Clause. In response, Kagan noted that “whether it’s a dumb law is different from … the question of whether it’s constitutional.”)

Most of the journalistic/legal world is on fire with excitement for the decision in the Affordable Care Act case. The New Yorker has a critical article on the not-yet-but-really-soon-to-be-issued decision and what it means for the Court. Time Magazine has a cover picture of Justice Kennedy — “The Decider” — a close-up so close you can see the lines in his bifocals. New York Magazine wrote about how frustrating it is that Supreme Court clerks don’t leak info so there would finally, for the love of all things holy, be something to report from the Court about the health care reform case.

Folks who don’t have press passes are also keyed up. I heard a rumor from one of my neighbors that the decision would come down this week! A friend of a friend told me that the health care reform case was in the bag for the conservatives. It’s like the finals in American Idol, but no one gets to text in their vote.

For weeks, the world has speculated and waited for an opinion. Each decision day for the past month the speculation has intensified. Each decision day a decision in Obamacare has not come.

What happened at One First Street today?

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We don’t respond to criticism. Judges use what’s known as the rope-a-dope trick. It’s judicial tradition.

– Justice Antonin Scalia, speaking yesterday at the University of Southern Mississippi. Citing precedent set in Ali v. Foreman, Justice Scalia declined to answer a question about President Barack Obama’s controversial statements about the Supreme Court earlier this week.

They say that March comes in like a lion, and goes out like a lamb. And in the case of last month’s legal happenings, that saying held true for the most part. Because even stuttering lambs are still gentle creatures, right?

All in all, March was filled with excitement (of the sexual variety) and disappointment (of the layoff variety) for lawyers. We even got a lesson in how to (and how not to) argue before the Supreme Court.

So who are our nominees for March’s Lawyer of the Month competition?

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Remember the homework assignment issued by Judge Jerry Smith of the Fifth Circuit to the U.S. Department of Justice? Earlier this week, Judge Smith ordered the DOJ to file a three-page, single-spaced letter discussing the principles of judicial review, in light of prior comments by President Barack Obama that could be construed as questioning the doctrine.

The response was due today at noon (Houston time) — about 20 minutes ago. It was filed on behalf of the Department by Attorney General Eric Holder.

Let’s take a look, shall we?

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'I'm so glad the Justice Department respects judicial review!'

The nation recently received a lesson in constitutional law from President Barack Obama (who famously taught Con Law at the University of Chicago). As we mentioned yesterday, President Obama said on Monday that striking down the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, would constitute an “unprecedented, extraordinary step,” amounting to “judicial activism or a lack of judicial restraint — that an unelected group of people would somehow overturn a duly constituted and passed law.”

The problem with this lesson: it wasn’t exactly accurate. Those “unelected” federal judges “overturn … duly constituted and passed law[s]” all the time — well, maybe not all the time, but on occasion, when said laws are inconsistent with the U.S. Constitution. It’s neither “unprecedented” nor “extraordinary,” and it doesn’t amount to judicial activism; rather, it’s called judicial review.

One prominent conservative jurist, Judge Jerry E. Smith of the Fifth Circuit, took it upon himself to set the record straight on this matter….

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Bo respects Obama's rhetoric way more than the Supreme Court.

So, I have a dog and sometimes I say things like “do not nudge open the bathroom door and rip up all the toilet paper,” or “you are not allowed to take my socks and hide them under my bed.” When I say these things, she looks at me as if she understands or at least basically respects my authority. But when I leave the bathroom door slightly ajar or I put my socks on the floor, she goes right back to ripping up paper or hiding socks.

You see, she’s a dog. And she’s gonna do what she’s going to do.

In all important respects, the Supreme Court of the United States is indistinguishable from my dog. With lifetime appointments for the justices, the Court is going to do what it wants, when it wants to, and they don’t much care what the “executive” happens to think they should do.

If you don’t want the Court to rip up your toilet paper, don’t leave the door open. Because scolding them about what they should or should not do has little effect, as President Obama is about to find out….

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Carter Phillips

After the Supreme Court heard oral arguments over the constitutionality of Obama’s healthcare overhaul last week, we discussed the case with veteran Supreme Court litigator Carter Phillips. Phillips, the managing partner of Sidley Austin‘s Washington, D.C. office, is a renowned Supreme Court litigator. He has argued 75 cases in front of the high court, more than any other attorney in private practice.

Check out our conversation below. He had a lot of insightful comments about the performances of Paul Clement and Donald Verrilli, the mind of Justice Anthony Kennedy, and even a few jokes…

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After a rough week, a near consensus has emerged that Obamacare has a murky future. Liberal pundits are reeling: Dahlia Lithwick is palpably depressed, and Jeffrey Toobin — so recently heard predicting that the ACA would be upheld by an 8-1 majority — is now characterizing the proceedings as a “train wreck for the Obama Administration, and it may also be a plane wreck.” On the other hand, Philip Klein of the avowedly right-wing Washington Examiner encapsulated the opposition’s mood of gleeful triumphalism when he tweeted, “Clement channeled Michael Jordan, Verrilli channeled Scott Norwood.” (But see: Elie’s lonely defense of the Solicitor General.)

Before the arguments commenced, we asked our readers for their opinions and predictions on the case: Will SCOTUS uphold the ACA? Should it? 1,100 of you weighed in.

After the jump, we’ll look at the results of our survey, and sample some representative reader comments. (Here is an example of a non-representative reader comment: “I hope the law is overturned. I am a Christian Scientist and have not been to the doctor in 40 years.”)

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “ATL Readers: Obamacare Is Either ‘Clearly Constitutional’ Or ‘The Birth of Tyranny’”

* If Obamacare gets struck down, do you think insurance companies will allow children to remain on their parents’ plans until age 26? My Magic 8-Ball says: “Outlook not so good.” [Wall Street Journal]

* There’s no crying in baseball bankruptcy sales! Which Biglaw firms hit a home run for playing a part in the sale of the LA Dodgers? Dewey & LeBoeuf, Foley & Lardner, and Sullivan & Cromwell. [Am Law Daily]

* “Just because you wear a hoodie does not make you a hoodlum.” But a hoodie will definitely prevent you from being recognized on the House floor. Just ask Congressman Bobby Rush. [New York Post]

* Things you can’t do on an airplane? Have a mid-flight nutty. Pilot Clayton Osbon has been criminally charged for his erratic form of in-flight entertainment, and he faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted. [Reuters]

* Guess who’s allegedly been infringing upon a high-end fashion house’s trademarks to the tune of $124M? Gucci was in court yesterday to accuse Guess of engaging in a massive “knock off” scheme. [Bloomberg]

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