U.S. Supreme Court

Roberts Is Likely Author of Health Law Opinion, Court Watchers Say


A majority opinion in the immigration case on Monday provides a clue that Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. will be writing for the majority when the U.S. Supreme Court issues a decision Thursday on the Obama administration’s health care law.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote the majority decision upholding just one disputed section of the Arizona immigration law. That signaled to court watchers such as SCOTUSblog, Politico and the ACA Litigation Blog that Roberts is the health opinion author.

The reason: Roberts is now the only justice who has not written any majority opinions in cases argued in March and April.

The ACA Litigation Blog says a Roberts opinion is likely “marginally heartening to the challengers.” Forbes, on the other hand, says a Roberts opinion likely means the health law’s insurance mandate will be overturned.

Some experts who talked to Politico saw significance in the fact that Roberts joined Kennedy’s opinion in the immigration case. One of them is George Washington University law professor Jeffrey Rosen. “The nationalism in the Arizona case might be a harbinger of similar deference [to the federal government] on health care,” Rosen said.

But SCOTUSblog founder Tom Goldstein told Politico it would be “totally wrong” to see a link between Roberts’ stance in the immigration and health law opinions. “They’re very different cases,” Goldstein said. “There are overlapping themes about states’ rights, but the federal immigration power is not the same as federal commerce power.”

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