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Constitutional Law

Meet Randy Barnett, the Libertarian Law Prof Whose Criticism of Health Care Law Became Mainstream

Posted Mar 27, 2012 11:00 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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When President Obama first signed the health care bill into law, many law professors had no doubts that the insurance mandate was constitutional.

Randy Barnett wasn’t one of them. A libertarian law professor at Georgetown University, his questions about the bill’s constitutionality lent support to conservative detractors and brought attention to the commerce clause debate, the New York Times reports.

“Over the past two years,” the story says, “through his prolific writings, speaking engagements and television appearances, Professor Barnett has helped drive the question of the health care law’s constitutionality from the fringes of academia into the mainstream of American legal debate and right onto the agenda of the United States Supreme Court.”

Barnett supports economic freedom and believes the Supreme Court went too far in upholding New Deal economic laws, the Times says. He argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in 2004 that Congress had no authority to regulate home-grown marijuana. He lost the case 6-3; the 2005 opinion allowing government regulation of medical marijuana, Gonzales v. Raich, is being cited in support of the government’s commerce clause authority in the health care case.

The Times describes Barnett as a “fast-talking former Chicago prosecutor” who grew up in Calumet City, Ill., where his father owned several laundries. He credits his upbringing for helping him learn the importance of communicating with ordinary people “and not be a pointy-headed intellectual.” He views the lengthy Supreme Court arguments as a victory.

"When the Supreme Court grants six hours of oral arguments over three days, I don’t have to win that case to know that my challenge is serious," he told the Times.

Prior coverage:

ABAJournal.com: " ‘Smart Money’ Says Supreme Court Won’t Thwart Health Care Bill, Law Prof Says"

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