U.S. Supreme Court

Lawyers and Pols Jockey for Seats at Supreme Court Health Care Arguments

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Updated: There are only 400 seats for visitors at the U.S. Supreme Court, and that’s creating problems for lawyers and politicians who want to watch oral arguments on the constitutionality of the Obama administration’s health care law.

Former GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann was an outspoken opponent of the measure, but she doesn’t have a confirmed seat, the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) reports. Ilya Shapiro of the conservative Cato Institute helped draft briefs against the law, but he didn’t get a seat allocated to the plaintiffs. Instead, he hopes to gain admission as a reporter for a website, or by camping out in line.

The court reserves at least 50 seats for members of the general public who wait in line. Some lawyers have paid $200 to join the Supreme Court bar, which has the benefit of a separate, possibly shorter line, the newspaper reports. Those who don’t make the cut may be able to get into a 60-seat lawyers’ lounge that offers a live audio feed.

“The hottest ticket of the season isn’t for the White House Easter Egg Roll or Opening Day for the Washington Nationals baseball team,” the story says. “It’s for a spot inside the Supreme Court to watch three days of arguments challenging the 2010 health-care law that begins here a week from Monday.”

Court watchers who don’t snag a seat will, however, have access to same day audiotapes, the U.S. Supreme Court announced today. SCOTUSblog has the story and links to the press release (PDF). The court is holding arguments over three days, beginning March 26. As usual, transcripts will also be available the same day.

The ABA’s Preview of United States Supreme Court Cases queried more than a dozen experts about their predictions on how the court will rule. Their consensus: The justices will uphold the law’s insurance mandate in a 6-3 vote, according to a press release. The three dissenters will be Justices Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia and Samuel A. Alito Jr., according to the results published on page 23 of the magazine (PDF).

Updated to include news of same-day audiotapes after Sen Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., issued a statement applauding the announcement and calling for live audio streaming.

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