SCOTUS Shrug Off Scrutiny in Obamacare Case
1 year ago
Conservative-leaning judges scrutinized ahead of Obamacare case.
Tea Party activists and conservative Republicans rejoiced when they learned of a potential knockout blow to the Obama administration’s healthcare reform law.
(Anything to stop “Obamacare” and “death panels…” oh, and a million more young Americans from having affordable healthcare insurance.)
Now that the Supreme Court will hear a case that challenges the constitutionality of requiring all Americans to purchase health insurance, opponents and proponents of the law are scrambling to see “conflicted” judges recuse themselves.
More specifically, there are crosshairs pointed at Justices Clarence Thomas and Elena Kagan. Thomas, who is infamous for a few things, has to defend against assertions that his spouse’s right wing activist work in Washington should disqualify him from hearing the case. Kagan, the court’s newest justice, has to play down her role as Obama’s solicitor general during the healthcare law debate in Congress.
Curiously, it was conservative-leaning Chief Justice John Roberts, Jr. to defend his colleagues over the weekend, in an annual report on the state of the federal judiciary.
From a New York Times report:
“I have complete confidence in the capability of my colleagues to determine when recusal is warranted,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote. “They are jurists of exceptional integrity and experience whose character and fitness have been examined through a rigorous appointment and confirmation process.”
Thomas’ wife Virginia has been in the news recently for things completely unrelated to her work with groups opposed to the healthcare reforms. On impartiality, Kagan has less of a burden of proof; it’s only assumed she was involved in the legal aspect of the Obama administration’s healthcare reform laws as solicitor general.
The case won’t be argued until March. Chief Justice Roberts wrote that any SCOTUS justice stepping aside could be problematic, as there is “no higher court to review a justice’s decision not to recuse in a particular case.”
In other words, the justices are virtually immune from legal scrutiny. Stepping aside would happen as a matter of a justice’s conscience. That revelation isn't exactly sitting well with parties for and against the healthcare reforms.
One interesting tidbit from the last GOP republican debate on the Fox News Channel: three of seven candidates named Thomas as one of their favorite SCOTUS justices. (Transcript here.)
Of course, each of the candidates are running on a promise repeal or strike down of the Obama administration's healthcare reform law.