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Looming Health Care Ruling Will Be Among Supreme Court's Most Important

Publication Date: 
June 18, 2012
Source: 
CNN.com
Author: 
Bill Mears

Professor Thomas Goldstein discusses the upcoming SCOTUS decision on Healthcare and why he believes the justices probably had their minds made up prior to March's oral arguments.

Winners and losers are the natural consequence of the American legal system. In the Supreme Court, five majority votes among the nine members are enough to fundamentally change lives and legacies.

The high court in coming days will issue rulings in perhaps its most important appeal in a dozen years: whether the sweeping health care law championed by President Barack Obama will be tossed out as an unconstitutional exercise of congressional authority.

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"I think the justices probably came into the argument with their minds made up. They had hundreds of briefs and months to study them," said Thomas Goldstein, publisher of SCOTUSblog.com and a prominent Washington attorney. "The oral arguments [in March] might have changed their minds around the margin. But we won't find out until the end of June."

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"Getting themselves organized, identifying the different majorities, getting opinions written and circulated in dissents and concurrences will really test their capabilities in the final days," Goldstein said.

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"Anyone who says the individual mandate isn't in any trouble is just deluding themselves," Goldstein said. "It's not clear that it will be struck down but you cannot say from those arguments, that it's anything other than a toss-up. The [Obama] administration had as hard a time from those justices as they could have expected, and they are desperately hoping that they can pull together a fifth vote in favor of the mandate."

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"With the four more liberal justices almost certain to vote to uphold the individual mandate, the administration is really hoping for the votes of either the chief justice, who signaled that he had questions for both sides," said Goldstein, "or the traditional swing vote in the court, Anthony Kennedy, who really was tough on the government lawyer but toward the end suggested that maybe insurance was special enough that he could vote to uphold the mandate."

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"The court is bitterly divided over the individual mandate," Goldstein noted, "so if the administration is going to get his vote, it's either because he believes in a broad federal power or that he doesn't believe that the Supreme Court shouldn't overturn such an incredibly important economic statute."