Obamacare ruling restores faith in US Supreme Court

July 1, 2012 by Chantal Valery

With Chief Justice John Roberts' decisive swing vote to uphold "Obamacare," the conservative-majority US Supreme Court has seen its reputation as an independent final arbiter restored, experts say.

Roberts silenced critics who believed that the court would vote along partisan political lines and strike down President Barack Obama's signature domestic achievement barely four months before his re-election bid is decided.

Along with the four liberal-leaning members of the bench, the chief justice's vote gave the Democratic leader's health reforms a 5-4 victory -- despite five of the judges having been nominated by .

At a time when three in four Americans believe the court's rulings are political, this ruling "shows that the chief justice cares deeply about the court's reputation," Fordham University School of Law associate professor Clare Huntington told AFP.

Only one in eight Americans said in early June that the court would rule on Obama's law based solely on legal arguments, according to a survey by The New York Times and CBS.

"What they're afraid of is that the subjective impulse of the judge, rather than something more objective, will control the decision," Justice , a liberal member of the bench, said in a recent interview.

The pivotal "Bush v Gore" ruling that favored the Republican candidate and saw George W. Bush become president in 2000 rather than Democrat was hard for some liberals to swallow.

The highest court in the land was openly charged with bias when, in January 2010, it allowed the limitless financial participation of companies to .

"The American people would have come to see the US Supreme Court as pursuing a far right-wing, pro-corporate agenda if it overturned the ," Karen Wagner, an Illinois resident, wrote in a letter to .

Roberts's "deciding vote saved the Supreme Court from itself," she said.

-- Internal gyroscope --

"I've always thought of the as having a kind of internal, institutional gyroscope that keeps it from veering too far out of kilter," wrote opinion writer Ruth Marcus in The Washington Post.

For constitutional lawyer Elizabeth Papez, Thursday's decision "avoids a direct confrontation with the political branches by upholding a contested political act. But it does so on legal grounds that unambiguously affirm the court's power to say what the law is."

Roberts leaned on the lesson of an early predecessor, John Marshall, who in 1803 also took a stance that reaffirmed the court's authority as the foremost interpreter of the Constitution.

Reading the ruling, Roberts declared: "It is not our job to protect people from the consequences of their political choices," referring to the court's "reticence to invalidate the acts of the nation's elected leaders."

"Most important for his place in history, he avoids having the 'Roberts Court' be the first court since 1937 to strike down a major piece of economic legislation," American University law professor Daniel Marcus said.

Papez said the decision "reaffirms the court's role in our system of government, and could be viewed as taking the same approach to preserving the court's institutional authority and credibility."

The court avoided "the damning critique of history," said Fordham law professor Abner Greene.

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4 comments

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Phlabb
3 / 5 (2) Jul 01, 2012
One sane ruling does not undo all the damage they have already done.
desoto
3 / 5 (2) Jul 02, 2012
I can't wait to pay the new "tax" on healthcare.
rwinners
1 / 5 (1) Jul 02, 2012
I agree with Phlabb... The 'corporation is a person' rule has caused me to question the intelligence of the court and this last one hasn't change that at all.
We have 4 members with horse droppings between their ears and a fifty who waffles.
nappy
3 / 5 (2) Jul 06, 2012
This decision is absurd. To see this on a "science" site is equally absurd. Obamacare will greatly increase cost while shrinking the qwuantity and quality of healthcare available. Our ta rates are well above optimum, so, the increase in tax rates and new taxes will depress economic acitivity so as to REDUCE the monies going to government. The very same government that will have to spend trillions to support this montrosity. Result: Higher costs, fewer doctors and more deaths. This is guaranteed. Anyone who speaks to the opposite is an idiot, a liar, or is completely ignorant of any of the laws of economics. Not to mention completely oblivions to history. Socialism does not work and government does NOTHING in an efficient manner. All of the judges that voted for this should immediately be impeeched, convicted and removed. This entire law is COMPLETELY unconstitutional, not to mention insane.

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