President Obama’s public humiliation of the Supreme Court, that is:
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.“He was relentless,” one source said of Kennedy’s efforts. “He was very engaged in this.”But this time, Roberts held firm. And so the conservatives handed him their own message which, as one justice put it, essentially translated into, “You’re on your own.”
Six full terms after Justice Samuel Alito Jr. joined the court, the five in the majority have redefined judicial conservatism. The contrast in style and philosophy with the moderate minority is pronounced, including the conservatives’ willingness to flout court rules, constraints of precedent and well-established practices of legal reasoning to reach results they seek.It is no wonder that the court’s standing in public opinion polls is at its lowest level in a quarter of a century, with just one in eight Americans believing that the justices decide cases based only on legal analysis.Justice Elena Kagan said last month, dissenting in the crime lab evidence case, that the conservative majority sometimes forsakes “precedent-based decision making,” which guides lower court judges and provides predictability in the justice system. The court reached the right result on the Affordable Care Act, but that ruling was not a sign of change in a strident conservative majority.