Obama warns Supreme Court

US President Barack Obama on Monday challenged the “unelected” Supreme Court not to take the “extraordinary” and “unprecedented” step of overturning his landmark health reform law.

Though Obama said he was confident the court would uphold the law, the centerpiece of his political legacy, he appeared to be previewing campaign trail arguments should the nine justices strike the legislation down.

In a highly combative salvo, Obama also staunchly defended the anchor of the law — a requirement that all Americans buy health insurance — as key to giving millions of people access to treatment for the first time.

“Ultimately, I am confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress,” Obama said.

Pointed comments from Supreme Court justices last week during three days of compelling hearings have convinced many commentators that the court, expected to rule in June, will declare the law, dubbed ObamaCare, unconstitutional.

Such a move would electrify the White House race, puncture Obama’s claims to be a reformer in the grand political tradition, and throw the US health care industry into chaos.

Obama noted that for years, conservatives had been arguing that the “unelected” Supreme Court should not adopt an activist approach by making rather than interpreting law, and held up the health legislation as an example.

“I am pretty confident that this court will recognize that and not take that step,” Obama said during a press conference in the White House Rose Garden with the leaders of Canada and Mexico in his first comments on last week’s hearings.

Obama’s comments will be seen as a warning shot to the court, one of the three branches of the US government, and could draw complaints from critics that he is trying to influence the deliberations.

The health care case is the most closely watched Supreme Court deliberation since a divided bench handed the 2000 presidential election to George W. Bush over Al Gore, and could have far reaching political implications.

Obama also argued there was a “human element” to the health care battle, as well as legal and political dimensions.

He said that without the law, passed after a fierce battle with Republicans in 2010, several million children would not have health care, and millions more adults with pre-existing conditions would also be deprived of treatment.

Opponents of the health care law argue that the government has overreached its powers by requiring all Americans to purchase health insurance.

But supporters say that the government is within its rights to regulate the health industry as it has the power to oversee commerce across state borders.

Without the mandate, they say, the costs of insuring an extra 32 million Americans would be prohibitive to the private health insurance industry.

The Affordable Care Act is highly polarizing in US politics as the election approaches and Obama is yet to get a political dividend for the huge expenditure of political capital required to pass the legislation.

Read more here.

Poised To Strike

The Supreme Court’s conservative justices said Wednesday they are prepared to strike down President Obama’s healthcare law entirely.

Picking up where they left off Tuesday, the conservatives said they thought a decision striking down the law’s controversial individual mandate to purchase health insurance means the whole statute should fall with it.

The court’s conservatives sounded as though they had determined for themselves that the 2,700-page measure must be declared unconstitutional.

“One way or another, Congress will have to revisit it in toto,” said Justice Antonin Scalia.

Agreeing, Justice Anthony Kennedy said it would be an “extreme proposition” to allow the various insurance regulations to stand after the mandate was struck down.

Meanwhile, the court’s liberal justices argued for restraint. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the court should do a “salvage job,” not undertake a “wrecking operation.” But she looked to be out-voted.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said they shared the view of Scalia and Kennedy that the law should stand or fall in total. Along with Justice Clarence Thomas, they would have a majority to strike down the entire statute as unconstitutional.

An Obama administration lawyer, urging caution, said it would be “extraordinary” for the court to throw out the entire law. About 2.5 million young people under age 26 are on their parents’ insurance now because of the new law. If it were struck down entirely, “2.5 million of them would be thrown off the insurance rolls,” said Edwin Kneedler.

The administration indicated it was prepared to accept a ruling that some of the insurance reforms should fall if the mandate were struck down. For example, insurers would not be required to sell coverage to people with preexisting conditions. But Kneedler, a deputy solicitor general, said the court should go no further.

Read more here.

Supreme Court Says No to TV Cameras for Health Care Hearings

The Supreme Court on Friday rejected requests to allow television cameras in the courtroom for the upcoming arguments on President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, though said it would release audio recordings of the proceedings on the same day.

In a statement, the court acknowledged the “extraordinary public interest” in the proceedings, set to be held over three days beginning March 26. Still, it was not enough to shake the long-held tradition of barring recording devices of any kind from the courtroom, despite pleas from many news organizations.

Instead, the court will post audio files and transcripts on its website in the afternoon following each day of proceedings.

Following the announcement, the C-SPAN cable network said it would broadcast the arguments on its cable channel and on the radio as soon as the recordings are available. A statement from the network said it was “disappointed” the court rejected its request to air the proceedings live.

The court’s statement did not actually address the issue of live recordings, merely providing directions where interested parties will be able to access the audio files and transcripts.

According to the AP, the court’s announcement is similar to the decision over the case of Bush v. Gore in 2000, which clinched George W. Bush’s election as president. It was the first time the justices provided audio of the arguments the same day they were held, after denying requests for the proceedings to be aired live.

SCOTUS throws out massive class action sex discrimination case

Unanimously overruling the San Francisco-based 9th District Court, the Supreme Court threw out a massive class action sex discrimination case against Walmart. The key issue was whether the one and a half million women hired by Walmart, or who were not hired by Walmart after the case was filed, had enough in common to constitute a legally valid class able to sue. Reuters summarizes:

The high court accepted Wal-Mart’s main argument that the female employees in different jobs at 3,400 different stores nationwide and with different supervisors do not have enough in common to be lumped together in a single class-action lawsuit.

The Supreme Court only decided whether the 10-year-old lawsuit can proceed to trial as a group, not the merits of the sex-discrimination allegations at the heart of the case.

Justice Scalia,

said there must be significant proof that Wal-Mart operated under a general policy of discrimination. “That is entirely absent here,” he said, noting that Wal-Mart’s official corporate policies forbid sex discrimination.

The unanimous decision is yet another rebuke to the San Francisco-based 9th District Court of Appeals, the most-overruled circuit court in the nation, clearly out of step. The 9th also has the largest region under its jurisdiction, leading to calls to cut the district into two smaller regions. Perhaps the 9th’s jurisdiction ought to be limited to the City of San Francisco, with a new circuit created to encompass the rest of the current district. This is within the jurisdiction of Congress, according to the Constitution.

The Supreme Court and California Prisons

You’ve heard about this one, I’m sure. The U.S. Supreme Court has ordered the State of California to release about 46,000 prisoners. The California prison population is at about 148% of capacity. Face it … California is a basket case. Perhaps one of the problems with the prisons is that prison guards can retire on hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in pension benefits. That is money that could have been used to expand capacity. The only expansion has been the wallets of union prison guards.

You certainly don’t expect any common sense solutions in California – but the obvious first move is to release every non-violent drug offender currently serving time. Then take all people on death row and execute them … now. Electric bleachers would work. Once they’re executed they don’t take up any prison beds and they’re no longer in need of medical care. If after releasing the non-violent drug offenders and executing all on death row you still have an overcrowding problem, get back to me.

Scalia to address Tea Party Caucus

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia will address the newly formed House Tea Party Caucus.

Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann said Scalia will address the inaugural “Conservative Constitutional Seminar” on Jan. 24 to “speak to members of Congress
about the separation of powers.”

“It is a special privilege to have him address the first of what will be regular seminars featuring constitutional scholars,” Bachmann said in a statement. “In his 24 years of service on the high court, Justice Scalia has distinguished himself by his ‘originalist’ approach to constitutional interpretation.”

Bachmann, in the release, said the Conservative Constitutional Seminars are being organized in conjunction with the Tea Party Caucus. The House Constitution Caucus, chaired by New Jersey Republican Rep. Scott Garrett, is also involved in organizing the seminar.

Such conferences, Bachmann said, will be held at least twice monthly.