U.S. Supreme Court

Five-Plus Hours of Oral Argument on Health Care Law Isn’t That Long, Historically Speaking


The 5½ hours allotted for oral argument on the legal issues raised in a challenge to the Obama administration’s health care law is unusual, but it isn’t that long, historically speaking.

A rule change in 1970 gave most U.S. Supreme Court cases just an hour of argument time, the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) reports. Before that, some oral arguments “seemed to go on forever,” according to Jerry Goldman, who created a multimedia database of the Supreme Court at the Chicago-Kent College of Law.

When the Supreme Court considered how to enforce its Brown v. Board of Education ruling in 1955, oral arguments lasted more than 13 hours over several days, Goldman told the newspaper. Before 1849, the court had no time limits for oral arguments.

The Washington Post outlines the four issues the Supreme Court will consider in the health care appeal. They are:

• Whether Congress had the authority to require individuals to buy health insurance or pay a penalty.

• Whether the rest of the law can survive if the insurance mandate is struck down.

• Whether Congress is improperly coercing states to expand Medicaid.

• Whether the case was filed too soon. Some judges have said the penalty for failure to buy insurance is a tax that can’t be challenged under the Anti-Injunction Act until someone has to pay it.

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