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Welcome to our featured discussion on the future of the Supreme Court, in light of Judge John Roberts' nomination. We're extremely privileged to have two of the nation's leading legal scholars--in both civil and constitutional law--joining us for this discussion: Richard Epstein and Stephen Presser. For more on these scholars, see my longer post in the Forum, earlier today. I will update here as the scholars post; readers can also scroll down or click onto the specific entry in the right-hand column.

UPDATE: Professor Epstein, 7/21; Professor Presser 7/22; Professor Epstein, 7/26; Professor Presser, 7/26; Professor Epstein, 7/28; Professor Presser, 7/28; Professor Epstein, 7/29; Professor Presser, 7/29; Professor Epstein, 8/3; Professor Presser, 8/3; Professor Epstein, 8/4; Professor Presser, 8/4; Professor Epstein, 8/5; Professor Presser, 8/8; Professor Epstein, 8/8; Professor Presser, 8/11; Professor Epstein, 8/12; Professor Presser, 8/18; Professor Epstein, 8/19; Professor Presser, 8/26; Professor Epstein, 8/29; Professor Presser, 8/29; Professor Epstein, 8/30; Professor Presser, Sept. 1; Professor Epstein, Sept. 1; Professor Presser, Sept. 3; Professor Epstein, Sept. 3; Professor Presser, Sept. 4; Professor Epstein, Sept. 4; Professor Presser, Sept. 5; Professor Epstein, Sept. 19; Professor Presser, Sept. 20.

Nominations and the body politic

July 21, 2005 6:54 PM

Earlier this morning I published a column in The Wall Street Journal that said, in essence, that criticism of philosophical positions is a two-way street. More concretely, it challenged the practice whereby senators criticial of a nomineee could make statements as if from high, so that the soundness of a candidate's views, in this case John Roberts, is measured by the degree to which they deviate from that appointed position. My specific target on this occasion was Senator Charles Schumer, for the remarks he made after President Bush had announced the Roberts nomination. But the overall point goes to both sides of the political debate, and thus covers charges that might come from the right against a future Democratic nominee to the court.

I think that it is useful to stress this point for one simple reason. Those people like myself and Steve Presser who harbor limited-government libertarian views have much to be critical of the views of both parties. Indeed, the recent decision of Gonzalez v. Raich shows vividly how a Republican administration can push its Commerce Clause arguments to the limits. But at this point, Roberts is the target, and the sensible response is to separate disputes over intellectual positions from disputes over the choice of nominee. Roberts has a sterling record, and this morning's column by David Brooks points to his many well-known and admirable personal traits. Arguments about substantive positions should be made in briefs, and not in arguments over nomination.

Everyone has to remember that a nominee is a bundle of positions on all sorts of issues. It is as if we were given the choice to take or leave a bag of groceries in a supermarket, some of whose contents we liked and some not. In general, we are better taking the bag if there is an all-or-nothing choice even if we do not like all of the items. In politics it is still worse because there is no candidate who is worth his or her salt who does not have some features various groups do not like. All that we can ask for is to have a person who will listen to the arguments when individual cases are decided, issue by issue.

I do not think that the hard-left will be able to stop Roberts by itself, although it would love to try. Unless and until there is some new revelation (which there won't be) the sensible strategy for most liberal democrats is to follow Jeff Rosen's lead in his New York Times article, and be gracious about the whole matter. Let us hope that this position prevails. The fewer postings between now and confirmation, the healthier the body politic.

The right person for the job?

July 22, 2005 4:40 PM

As Richard Epstein appears to have hinted, he and I have no serious disagreements over John Roberts, over the manner of evaluating qualifications for judges, or, perhaps even what their appropriate jurisprudential philosophy (a term that I prefer over the currently trendy �judicial ideology� favored by Democrat Senators and their advisors such as Richard�s colleague, Cass Sunstein) should be. I wouldn�t actually characterize myself as a libertarian, again as Richard implies, unless we mean by �libertarian� one who simply believes in the liberty the framers of the Constitution sought to guarantee, since I prefer to think of myself as a �paleoconservative,� one who believes the Constitution ought to be interpreted according to the essentially conservative philosophy of the Framers.

A paleoconservative also understands that good government ought to foster an understanding of the duties and responsibilities of citizens as well as their liberty, and thus I might be somewhat more willing to endorse some governmental initiatives than would Richard, but over the years, whenever I�ve listened to Richard or read something he�s written I can�t remember much that I�ve disagreed with. Let me be even clearer on this last point, and let me write (blog?) for a moment in the biographical vein that Richard used in his Wall Street Journal piece. Thirty-two years ago, when I was seeking my first teaching job I was interviewed by the then Dean of USC and his young colleague, Richard Epstein. Richard did most of the talking, in that rapid-fire and dazzling manner we all know so well, I found it impossible to get a word in edgewise, or indeed, to form any coherent responses, and I slunk away from the interview, and, of course, got no USC offer. Richard went on to his distinguished career in Chicago, and I still managed to gain a toehold in the academy, but I have never shed my early awe of Richard, his delivery, and his intellect. Even if I disagreed with him, I�m not sure I would know what to say.

Still, I ought to say something, if only to give us more to talk about, and there is a bit more that can be said about John Roberts and the confirmation process. The question on most bloggers� lips (if blogs have lips) is whether Roberts is a �stealth� candidate, a la Souter (Ann Coulter thinks he is) or whether he�s likely to vote to overturn Roe v. Wade (about which NARAL and PFAW already seem concerned). These are the wrong questions, as Richard so clearly maintains. The questions that ought to be asked are, �Is this a person who really does believe that the tasks of a judge and a legislator are different?� and �Is this a person who displays the kind of learning and integrity that suggests that he or she might actually seek objectively to interpret the Constitution and laws in the manner Alexander Hamilton limned in Federalist 78?� Roberts�s first hearings and his professional track record so far give every indication that he is that sort of person, and indeed proclaim it in a manner that we rarely see in a candidate. We can only hope that the Democrats in the Senate, instead of launching a fishing expedition to uncover some foible that can be adversely spun against the judge, will simply accept the obvious. Judge Roberts has apparently suggested that he�d be reluctant to fasten any label upon himself, so Richard and I don�t know if he�s a libertarian or a paleoconservative, but it does strike me that he�s the right person for the job.

I was both pleased and amused to read Steve�s initial contribution to our dialogue over the ins and outs of the Roberts nomination. I confess that I do not have a distinct memory of the interview that he had at the University of Southern California. But if he said that I talked too much, then I find it hard to deny that it all happened. I do know that we interviewed many strong candidates at USC those days, and often made terrible mistakes when we did not extend offers. I used to say that would could staff the finest law school in the United States with people who did not receive our offers. And though I am gone from USC for over 30 years, it still occupies a special place in my heart, as the home that gave a much needed boost to my fledgling academic career.

Our blog, however, is to talk about weightier things, and Steve has mentioned two. One the Roberts nomination, and second the choice of philosophies needed to understand the Constitution. On the first, it seems that the issue of the moment is whether Judge Roberts is, or has ever been, a member of the Federalist Society. I do not know whether I count as a dues-paying member of an organization to which I have devoted much energy over the past 25 years, but it hardly matters. It is just inconceivable to me that the confirmation process would turn on an issue of so little relevance to the task at hand. One could understand a sense of outrage at people at nominees that spew hate and disdain from their lips. But if Federalist Society membership counts as reason to examine Judge Roberts closely, then membership in the American Constitution Society should be a red flag when the next Democratic nominee comes before the Senate. In effect, political loyalty becomes the litmus test for confirmation, and the entire process degenerates into a situation where the strongest advocates on each side demand the right to block nominees from the other side. This has to be a form of institutional madness, which will only receive too much weight if this line of inquiry has any traction in the Senate. We have to have the faith that all nominees will listen to arguments for both sides before deciding a case. The effort to pin people down to their past statements denies the possibility of intellectual growth. It speaks to the pettiness of the questioners, and not to the merits of the candidate.

Let us therefore move on from the latest tempest in the teapot to the larger question of whether my constitutional theory is paleoconservative or libertarian. The first point here is that the opposition is overstated because of the heavy congruence of the two positions as a matter of historical happenstance. The Constitution has survived as long and as well as it did because the Founders had a clear philosophy that dominated most (but not all) of its key provisions. They were not hard, anarcho-libertarians, but believed that the state had to have sufficient powers to govern, which in turn meant that it had to have sufficient powers to tax. But these powers were exercised to the end of protecting liberty and property, which received accordingly explicit constitutional protections. An honest reading of these key provisions will clip the wings of government to, as the phrase goes, �adjust the benefits and burdens of economic life,� because of the clear understanding that this is just a fancy modern way (Justice Thurgood Marshall�s way) of saying that it is all right for the state to take from A and give to B so long as it runs its program of confiscation through some large facility, like a pension guaranty fund, to achieve its result. There will of course be cases that Steve and I differ on, but they are not likely to come up in the current environment, where the dominant error is in favor of too much legislation, not too little. But if there is some dispute over how broadly to read a prohibition against titles of nobility, I�m confident that Steve can lead me to the right answer.

It�s a strain to try to think of something to debate, given the eloquence, cogency, and all-around common sense in Richard�s last posting, especially the gracious implication that USC has made hiring mistakes. One more biographical point; I believe that I am actually a card-carrying dues-paying member of the Federalist Society (though who can actually keep track of these things), so that, like Richard, I take umbrage at the notion that it should count against anyone. Indeed, as those of us who�ve participated in any of its conferences know, it is about the most fair-minded debating society around, and always does its best to present center and left views to go along with its traditionalist and libertarian leanings.

It�s a measure of how perverted our law and politics have become that, in some quarters of the polity, to say �Federalist Society Membership� is a coded message meaning �Right-Wing Neanderthal or Troglodyte,� which is probably unfair not only to Federalist Society members, but also Neanderthals and Troglodytes.

Perhaps the main sinner in this regard is Senator Edward Kennedy (although Ralph Neas of People for the American Way and others of his ilk come close), who infamously slandered Robert Bork in his �Robert Bork�s America� speech, claiming that �Robert Bork's America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens' doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be censored at the whim of the government, and the doors of the federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens.� None of that was even remotely true, of course, and Robert Bork reports that Kennedy later coyly explained to him that his words were �just politics.� And that�s the problem--the media and the American people have too long permitted politicians the freedom to fail to distinguish between law and politics. Too many in the academy think there is no such distinction, but if there�s not, then our profession is built on a massive lie, and Richard Epstein and the rest of us have been writing in vain.

And to come back to Richard�s point about titles of nobility. We have no established church, no monarchy, and no aristocracy. All we have, for sacred veneration, is the Constitution and laws; all we have is our ideal that we have a government of laws, not men. Maybe it�s no surprise that politics should permeate law, since it�s so important to us and since politicians� power now is so dependent on the law. I once wrote that a paleoconservative is not quite certain that the American revolution wasn�t a mistake, and that we might be better off if we had institutions such as a House of Lords which could offer some competing traditional or aristocratic guidance to that now vested exclusively in the United States Supreme Court. I�d be inclined, in short, to revisit the question of prohibiting titles of nobility, so I�m not sure I can elucidate the nuances of the currently-existing Constitutional provision on the point. Perhaps, Richard, this will give us something to disagree about.

Let�s Question the Questioners

July 28, 2005 11:24 AM

Tuesday, Steve Presser and I concluded our initial love fest in basic agreement that the nomination of John Roberts presented an easy case for confirmation. On this point, I am heartened to report that my own liberal colleague Geoffrey Stone reached the same conclusion when he urged his colleagues on the far left to throw in the towel on the ground that Roberts was not the incarnation of Justices Scalia and Thomas.

Nonetheless the drumbeat to first undermine, and then kill the nomination continues apace. Yesterday morning�s entry from The New York Times was a column entitled �Casing John Roberts�, in which Vikram David Amar urges that the Senate put hard questions to Roberts on a range of issues that go from affirmative action, to late-term abortions, to cruel and unusual punishment, to the display of the Ten Commandments and the scope of sovereign immunity. Of course another commentator could easily find five other hot-button issues on which to dwell.

But again, what are we to make of these protestations? The most obvious point is that no liberal interrogator can claim to sit on that magic podium that makes him fit to judge all lesser human beings. The second point is that the discussion of any of these issues in depth could consume the entire hearing without coming to any conclusion. Certainly on this score no one should trust Amar�s formulation of the questions, nor his desired answers to them.

Here is but one example. How do we think about Grutter and affirmative action? The most obvious point is that Justice O�Connor�s purported use of the strict scrutiny standard to validate the practice was something of a joke. Why should she take the University of Michigan at its word when it says that it hopes the program will be gone in 25 years? That doesn�t make the decision wrong, but it does call into the question the use of the strict scrutiny standard. But when that standard is relaxed, then what happens to cases in which a state wants to segregate high schools by sex in order to promote discipline and learning? We can argue until the cows come home how this should be resolved. But there is no way that questions on this, or any other case by a panel of senators, will be able to steer clear of future business before the Court.

And why do we want to do this? Not in the hope that liberal democrats will find something to cheer about in Roberts. They just hope that he will slip up under pressure. We don�t need this ordeal. And we don�t want a democratic nominee to face the same questions from stony-faced Republican interrogators who will expect a very different set of answers.

Opening thoughts and questions

April 13, 2011 6:08 AM

I'm  excited to see what some of our guests have to say on the pending Supreme Court case, Wal-Mart v. Dukes, which is in essence the mother of all employment-law class actions. Richard's piece is a good start, fleshing out how two areas of law -- employment discrimination law and class actions -- come together here. I'll start with a few questions, pulling out the key issues as I see them:

  1. The class action rule at play. When I wrote about this case after initial reports that it was certified at the trial-court level, I noted how it didn't fit under a traditional 23(b)(3) schema. Of course, as is now obvious, the certification rule at play isn't (b)(3) but rather (b)(2). It would seem to me that using (b)(2) here is disingenuous. To begin with, it's hard for me to see how the damages at issue here don't force this case into a (b)(3) framework. Even Justice Ginsburg -- hardly a critic of litigation generally or employment-discrimination litigation specifically -- seemed to recognize in oral argument that there's a pretty serious issue about how to handle the damages phase in a way that doesn't adversely affect the interests of many (realistically thousands or hundreds of thousands) of class plaintiffs. Doesn't using (b)(2) here swallow the (b)(3) rule? And if so, wouldn't (b)(3) be somewhat superfluous, at least in similar types of cases? And even under a (b)(2) rationale, the injunctive remedy isn't at all clear here; it's a far cry from the nuisance abatement scenario Richard describes, and short of Wal-Mart completely centralizing and reconstructing its hiring practices, under court supervision, how exactly is an injunction supposed to work?   I'd be very interested in hearing more about these issues from some of our experts more versed in class-action practice.
  2. Expert evidence at the class certification stage. A key question before the Court is of course the degree to which it's proper to rely on the plaintiffs' expert evidence to establish their theory of the case, both to establish that discrimination exists and to tie it somehow back to Wal-Mart, with respect to all of its female employees. If Daubert review isn't appropriate at the class-certification stage, I don't see how any court could evaluate claims in a case like this: effectively, any employer likely has some gender or race or other disparity in its hiring or promotion patterns, and it's always possible to concoct some theory to explain such disparities. Don't we have to have some standard to evaluate such claims before launching a class-action claim that could leave an employer's hiring practices under court control?
  3. How this case intersects with "disparate impact" in employment discrimination cases. I think Richard is right to focus on disparate impact here. As some of the justices suggested at oral argument, there's some tension in the plaintiffs' theory: on the one hand, Wal-Mart is responsible for gender disparities in promotion and pay across all its stores nationwide; but it's responsible under the theory that its promotion and pay practices are too decentralized, leaving decisions up to individuals who are, at least in some cases, likely to be governed by prejudice. Isn't this rationale just a backdoor way to solidify a disparate-impact standard -- requiring that large employers centralize decision-making to avoid disparities in hiring, pay, and promotions? How does the theory here jibe with the Supreme Court's rulings on disparate impact, such as the recent (race) case Ricci v. DeStefano?

So, at the outset, I have lots of questions. I look forward to fleshing them out.

James R. Copland

As the Supreme Court holds oral arguments to consider challenges to the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act on constitutional grounds, Point of Law is hosting a featured discussion that we hope will help shed light on the legal issues involved, as well as those that seem to be of particular interest to the justices. We're delighted to welcome the following legal scholars and analysts--among the leaders in their fields--to Point of Law:


Erwin Chemerinsky, University of California, Irvine School of Law

Richard Epstein, New York University Law School

Orin Kerr, George Washington Law School

Gillian Metzger, Columbia University Law School

Michael Rosman, General Counsel of the Center for Individual Rights

Nadine Strossen, New York Law School, formerly president of the American Civil Liberties Union


On Tuesday, March 27, after one day's oral argument, we'll be kicking off with comments from Professor Chemerinsky, Professor Strossen, and Mr. Rosman. Our discussion will continue over the next two weeks--come back and visit what promises to be an exceptional conversation.

Erwin Chemerinsky
Dean and Distinguished Professor of Law,
University of California, Irvine School of Law

Under current constitutional law, the federal health care law is clearly constitutional. I predict that the Court will uphold the Act and that the decision will not be close.

Perhaps the most important question before the Supreme Court is whether Congress has the authority to require that individuals either purchase health insurance or pay a penalty. This is constitutional under Congress's power, pursuant to Article I, section 8 of the Constitution to regulate commerce among the states.


Michael E. Rosman
General Counsel, The Center for Individual Rights

I'm going to focus on the constitutionality of the "individual mandate" (the requirement that almost everyone have insurance meeting certain "minimum essential requirements"). And I'd like to open the discussion by suggesting that some of the better arguments regarding the Commerce Clause are somewhat unprecedented because they focus on somewhat different text.

The Commerce Clause gives Congress the power "[t]o regulate commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes." In past Commerce Clause cases, it was pretty clear what was being regulated, and the question was whether that something was regulable under the Commerce Clause. For example, in United States v. Lopez, 514 U.S. 549 (1995), Congress was regulating the possession of guns within 1000 feet of a school. In United States v. Morrison, 529 U.S. 598 (2000), it was gender-based, animus-motivated violent crimes.

Nadine Strossen
Professor of Law, New York Law School
President, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), 1991-2008

Although today's argument focused on a threshold issue about the timing of this litigation, U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verilli used it as an opportunity to preview tomorrow's argument about the most controversial substantive issue: whether Congress had power to pass the minimum coverage provision. At the very outset of his argument today, Verilli asserted that this provision "is an exercise of Congress's taxing power as well as its commerce power."

What is the link between the core constitutional issue of Congress's power and the seemingly disparate, technical issue on today's agenda: Whether an 1867 federal law, the Anti-Injunction Act (AIA), requires the Court to dismiss the litigation as premature? The AIA bars any "suit for the purpose of restraining the assessment or collection of any tax." Its purpose was well-captured in the opening argument by attorney Robert Long: it "imposes a pay first, litigate later rule that is central to Federal tax assessment and collection."

Gillian Metzger
Vice Dean and Stanley H. Fuld Professor of Law, Columbia Law School

Erwin Chemerinsky's post well-states the argument for the constitutionality of the individual mandate---the requirement that individuals purchase health insurance or pay a penalty---under the Commerce Clause. I agree that the mandate falls well within the existing scope of Congress's commerce power: It is a regulation of quintessential economic activity, specifically individuals' actions in accessing and paying for health care. As Judge Sutton put it, "No one is inactive when deciding to pay for health care, as self-insurance and private insurance are two forms of action for addressing the same risk. Each requires affirmative choices; one is no less active than the other; and both affect commerce." Thomas More Law Center v. Obama, 651 F.3d 529, 561 (6th Cir. 2011). And while Michael Rosman argues that requiring insurance is not the same thing as regulating how people pay for health care, I think the link between the two is plainly sufficient to fall within the broad deference given to Congress when it is addressing economic activity that substantially affects interstate commerce.

Richard A. Epstein
Laurence A. Tisch Professor of Law, New York University School of Law

Professor Erwin Chemerinsky pushes all the right buttons for the government in making out the claim that the imposition of the individual mandate is in his words "clearly constitutional" under today's law. I have written here and here that the current Commerce Clause jurisprudence of the Supreme Court is wholly inconsistent with the original vision of the Constitution as giving the federal government few and enumerated powers.

With ObamaCare, the Congress has stretched that overbroad power even further, by allowing the government to impose taxes on individuals who have not engaged in any form of activity at all. Chemerinsky takes the view that this benign intervention is intended to make sure that individuals who will always be in the need of health care will be prevented from free riding on the system by showing up without insurance coverage or cash at an emergency room.

Orin Kerr
Professor of Law, George Washington Law School

What a day. The challengers need to sweep all four of the Republican nominees who are potentially in play -- Roberts, Alito, Scalia, and Kennedy. Based on today's argument, it looks like all four of those Justices accepted the basic framing of the case offered by the challengers to the mandate. In particular, they all seem to accept that a legal requirement of action is quite different from a legal requirement regulating action, and that therefore the expansive Commerce Clause precedents like Raich did not apply to this case. That was the key move Randy Barnett introduced, and the four key Justices the challengers needed seemed to accept it. That was an enormous accomplishment for the challengers.

It's the Kennedy Court

March 29, 2012 8:05 AM

Erwin Chemerinsky
Dean and Distinguished Professor of Law,
University of California, Irvine School of Law

Two hours of oral arguments on Tuesday about the constitutionality of the individual mandate leave little doubt of what everyone expected all along: the outcome almost surely depends on Justice Anthony Kennedy. Justice Kennedy asked tough questions of both sides that allow either to be optimistic or pessimistic.

At one point, Justice Kennedy asked Paul Clement, the attorney for the states challenging the law, why the individual mandate was beyond the scope of Congress's power since it clearly could create a national health care system, tax people to fund it, and exempt those with health insurance. Justice Sotomayor expressed this forcefully when she said to Clement: "Could we have an exemption? Could the government say everybody pays a shared health care responsibility payment to offset all the money that we're forced to spend on health care, we the government; but anybody who has an insurance policy is exempt from that tax? Could the government do that?"

It's not about individual liberty

March 29, 2012 8:24 AM

Nadine Strossen
Professor of Law, New York Law School
President, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), 1991-2008

Many critics of the health care law's minimum coverage provision have invoked libertarian rhetoric, including their chosen, intendedly stigmatizing, label for it: "the individual mandate." They have trotted out a "parade of horribles," arguing that if the federal government can enforce this provision, then it could also subject us to countless intrusive regulations. "Broccoli" now connotes this alleged government power even to dictate what we ingest into our own bodies - as invoked several times during Tuesday's argument.

As a civil libertarian, I would be delighted if the challenge to the minimum coverage provision actually advanced individuals' rights to remain free from unwarranted government regulation. But Tuesday's arguments underscored that this is not the concern of either the challengers or the Justices who indicated support for their position.

The Limits of Limiting Principles

March 29, 2012 8:30 AM

Michael E. Rosman
General Counsel, The Center for Individual Rights

Today, I'd like to discuss General Verrilli's effort to define a limiting principle to his theories.

When pressed, General Verrilli insisted that his theories had one and relied on the tried and true commerce clause formulation that Congress must be regulating economic activity with a substantial effect on interstate commerce. (Tr. 30.) But if not buying something was "economic activity," that still left open the possibility that Congress could require people to purchase any product at all, a suggestion that made some Justices uncomfortable. To avoid that possibility, General Verrilli insisted (until he summed up and perhaps slipped a little) that Congress was not regulating the purchase and sale of insurance, and not mandating a purchase or creating commerce, but rather regulating the financing and payment associated with existing health care transactions. (Tr. 4-5, 16-17, 18, 20, 42.)

Richard A. Epstein
Laurence A. Tisch Professor of Law, New York University School of Law

In this post, I want to highlight the issue that I ducked the first time around, which deals with the relationship of ObamaCare to the original design of the Constitution. To many this little exercise could be regarded as an exploration into lost causes, but I think that it is instructive because it shows you how subtle permutations in arguments can lead, under the guise of the living constitution, to a massive revision of the basic constitutional structure--for the worse.

To do so, let me take two sentences, one from Gillian Metzger's instructive post on the taxation question, and one from Erwin Chemerinsky on the scope of the Commerce Clause. The common thread that links these together is that the Constitutional charter as now understood gives Congress a broad range of authority over both taxation and regulation that easily legitimates the scope of both the individual mandate and the Medicaid extension. But note the moves that it takes to do this. Thus Professor Metzger says with regrettable correctness that in dealing with the taxing power "there's no constitutional prohibition on forcing the young and healthy to help subsidize the old and infirm." That proposition is surely true, along with its converse, which is that there is no constitutional prohibition in asking the rich, who are elderly, to help subsidize, the poor who are not. Indeed, there is nothing in the current system of constitutional law that prevents multiple redistributive taxes working at cross purposes with each other.

But what does the spending clause actually say. Namely this:

The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; . . .
The question is how to get from this text to the conventional wisdom that Metzger accurately conveys. It is not possible except by sleight of hand. Obviously, the taxing power was new to the Constitution. The general welfare is mentioned after the repayment of debts and the common defence. These are classic public goods that must be supplied to all if they are supplied to any persons. The basic theory is that government could tax to deal with those issues to overcome a collective action problem. The general welfare is linked to these, and it bound at the end by reference to the words "of the United States," which refers to the entity whose general welfare is at stake. The system of madcap redistribution is the antithesis of a public good, because far from benefiting everyone uniformly to the extent institutions can do so, it authorizes transfer payments that help some and hurt others. The redefinition of general welfare to include transfer payments is of stupendous importance. It expands the definition of a public good a thousand-fold, and opens the door to factional strife in the bargain.

Professor Chemerinsky is equally casual with the original Constitution design. His view of the living Constitution led him to observe that "[t]he framers could not have anticipated a country with 50 million people without health insurance or the enormous costs that imposes on the economy." Actually, they did, after a fashion, because they knew the dangers of any major departure from fundamental principles.

What Chemerinsky fails to ask is why there are 50 million uninsured. It is not a brute or necessary fact of nature. It is in fact a function of the very failed policies that he continues to support. Introduce a system of limited federal powers, and strong protections for economic liberties, and you don't get into the box where state and federal regulations and mandates can close down the voluntary market. And you certainly do get to unsustainable system of government rigged exchanges that are all too likely to increase the number of persons who will be forced to do with no or inferior health care.

Perhaps the living constitution allows this nation to move rapidly in reverse, but the laws of supply and demand are not so malleable. So when the government chooses a system that raises costs to produce and clamps down on their revenues, it is destined to fail. The correct intellectual response is not an apology for ObamaCare, but a sober understanding that the living constitution (which always evolves, alas, in collectivist fashion) is fraught with political and economic risks that will lead to the long-term decline of the United States. Striking down the ACA is a good way in which to reaffirm the founding principles, which by any standard of political wisdom and social welfare beat the living constitution hands down in any head-to-head competition.

Gillian Metzger
Vice Dean and Stanley H. Fuld Professor of Law, Columbia Law School

The argument on Tuesday made two key points clear. First, the five more conservative Justices are worried that allowing Congress to require individuals to buy health insurance before they seek healthcare would mean Congress's power has no bounds. Second, and as important, these Justices appear to accept that Congress could require individuals to obtain insurance when they do seek healthcare---presumably, because at that point, individuals are engaging in economic activity on their own volition. Indeed, both Paul Clement and Michael Carvin agreed that Congress could require insurance as a condition of getting healthcare.

Put these two points together, and the facial challenge to the mandate has to fail---even if a majority of the Court rejects the argument that everyone is active in the market for healthcare because everyone will seek healthcare at some point in their lives. That's because tens of millions of uninsured currently seek healthcare each year---57% of the 40 million uninsured, to quote a leading study. On the reasoning above, the mandate is constitutional as applied to this substantial group of people. Whether the test for a facial challenge is that it can only succeed if there's no constitutional application, or that it can succeed only when a challenged provision lacks any plainly legitimate sweep, the mandate meets it. As a result, the Court plainly should reject the facial challenge, and at most hold the mandate unconstitutional as applied to individuals who do not use healthcare in a given year.

Of course, that's assuming the Court adheres to its current doctrine that facial challenges are disfavored and that courts should avoid invalidating more of a statute than necessary. Resistance to facial challenges has been a pronounced characteristic of the Roberts Court. But the arguments on both Tuesday and Wednesday suggested that adherence to current doctrine isn't exactly the Court's paramount concern in these cases. The conservative Justices seemed unconcerned about the mandate's central role in ensuring the effectiveness of the ACA's regulation of insurers, even though in 2005 they sustained regulation of local noneconomic activity in Gonzales v. Raich on these grounds. They also seemed undeterred by the Court's repeated acceptance of conditional spending arrangements. If the Court is willing to cast aside core doctrines that have governed its assessment of congressional power challenges since the New Deal, asking for consistency on the facial challenges front may well be unrealistic.

Orin S. Kerr
Professor of Law, George Washington Law School

Based on this week's oral arguments, there is a very real chance that the Supreme Court might strike down the Affordable Care Act in whole or in part. What might change if that happens, beyond the obvious difference that the invalidated parts of the law would no longer be in effect?

Many have speculated about how such a decision might impact the 2012 race. I don't think there's an easy answer. On the Democratic side, such a decision might help because it lets Obama run against the Supreme Court; it might hurt because it denies Obama his most significant legislative accomplishment. On the Republican side, such a decision might help because it helps sell the narrative that Obama has gone too far; it might hurt because it takes away an unpopular law that Republicans could run against. Which of these possibilities are strongest? I just don't know.

The decision might also help reorient the basic constitutional narratives of the two parties. Since the Nixon Era, politicians from the two parties have each generally sounded a simple theme. Democrats generally endorse some form of a living Constitution and an active Supreme Court; Republicans generally endorse some form of strict construction and not legislating from the bench. There have been many variations from this theme over time. But, for the most part, that basic narrative has held its rhetorical force. If the Supreme Court strikes down the ACA on a 5-4 vote, however, those two sides just might flip. We may see Democrats come to extol judicial restraint and Republicans come to celebrate judicial power.

Finally, a decision striking down the ACA would inject the Supreme Court into the political arena in a way we haven't seen in many years. Remember the timing. The basic theory for why the ACA might be unconstitutional wasn't articulated until around the time the legislation was enacted. That theory quickly became an article of faith on one side of the aisle and the object of derision on the other side. If the Court uses those theories to knock down the legislation on a party line vote of 5 Republican nominees to 4 Democratic nominees, many will view the decision as politics masquerading as constitutional law - sort of a Bush v. Gore but with more lasting impact on constitutional law.

Nadine Strossen
Professor of Law, New York Law School
President, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), 1991-2008

At the conclusion of his argument in the Court's final session last Wednesday afternoon, U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verilli moved beyond the specific Medicaid expansion issue then on the Court's agenda, to argue more broadly that the Medicaid expansion, as well as the minimum coverage provision and other core aspects of the new law, will promote the equal "opportunity to enjoy the blessings of liberty." As Verilli urged, "it's important that we not lose sight of" the important ways in which the law advances liberty and equality, especially because its detractors have demonized the minimum coverage provision as violating both core constitutional concerns.

Three major national civil liberties and civil rights organizations - the American Civil Liberties Union, the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights -- filed a friend of the court brief in the Supreme Court precisely to make the case that the minimum coverage provision has an overall positive impact on the intertwined constitutional guarantee of individual liberty and equal opportunity. For example, the ACLU summarized its "substantial interest in" this issue as being due to "its potential impact on the ability of millions of uninsured Americans to participate more fully in the economic, political, and social life of the Nation." This important perspective hasn't received as much attention as it deserves.

Numerous studies have documented that the uninsured are less likely to obtain adequate health care, thereby suffering many lost opportunities, which decreases both the quality and length of their lives. For example, children with untreated health problems are less likely to attend and to perform well in school. Being uninsured also correlates with other adverse educational outcomes, including failing to graduate from high school or to attend college.

The burdens of costly health care, and of being uninsured, are imposed disproportionately on members of our society who are relatively disempowered within the political system, including people of color, people with disabilities, low-income families, women, and senior citizens. Individuals in these groups inordinately experience unemployment, jobs that do not offer health insurance, and lower incomes that make insurance premiums unaffordable. The United Nations Committee that oversees compliance with the international Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination - to which the U.S. is a party -- recently noted its concern that in our country, "a large number of persons belonging to racial, ethnic, and national minorities still remain without health insurance and face numerous obstacles to access to adequate health care."

In sum, by lowering the cost of health insurance, the minimum coverage provision will make health care more affordable and accessible, thus enhancing liberty and equality for the millions of uninsured Americans. In contrast, this provision imposes only minimal burdens on individual liberty.

First, although its detractors refer to the minimum coverage provision as a "mandate," it does not in fact require anyone to purchase insurance. Rather, anyone may opt instead to pay a financial penalty, which is enforced through an offset of any tax refund that the government would otherwise have to pay. This arrangement certainly does not constitute direct government compulsion, and in many situations may well exert only limited influence on an individual's choice whether to buy insurance.

More fundamentally, this provision doesn't implicate any liberty interest that the Court has deemed constitutionally protected. For example, it doesn't force anyone to undergo any medical treatment or to receive any health services - which would infringe on fundamental freedoms of bodily integrity and medical decision-making. Instead, because the minimum coverage provision is an economic regulation, the asserted right to resist it is akin to the long-repudiated "liberty of contract" that the pre-1937 Supreme Court had read into the Constitution, substituting its own laissez-faire economic philosophy for our elected officials' policy choices.

Such judicial invalidation of economic regulations designed to promote equal access to health and welfare for the most vulnerable groups in our society, in the service of a judge-created "freedom of contract," has long been discredited as inappropriate judicial activism. If the Roberts Court resuscitated this approach, it would be promoting not individual liberty, but rather, judicial hegemony.

Michael E. Rosman
General Counsel, The Center for Individual Rights

Under the Necessary & Proper Clause, Congress has the power "to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers." The N&P Argument for the individual mandate is fairly straightforward, and perhaps the government's best argument. Congress relied on its Commerce Clause authority to regulate insurance company practices in the individual market, requiring the companies to adhere to "guaranteed issue" and "community rating" principles. (Everyone gets a policy and those with health issues cannot be charged more because of them.) With those principles, the argument goes, people might wait until they get sick before buying a policy; with only the sick buying policies, the costs to insurers will skyrocket and they will charge more for each policy, making the policies themselves much more expensive. The individual mandate precludes people from gaming the system like that, and thus is a "necessary and proper" addition to the insurance company regulations.

To this, the challengers reply that Congress cannot create the problem that requires fixing, or its powers would be unlimited. As the private challengers noted, Congress could "compel the purchase of any product burdened in any way by federal regulation, which is every product." The challengers and their amici focused on the requirement that laws must be "for carrying into execution the foregoing powers." One can fully execute a law by eliminating barriers to its enforcement, not by regulating third parties outside of the original regulation who can help lower the burdens of that initial law. They argue that the insurance company regulations (and, thus, Congress's Commerce Clause authority) could be perfectly executed without the individual mandate. The N&P Clause may give Congress the authority to punish insurers who fail to comply with its regulations, but it does not give Congress the authority to regulate outside of the enumerated powers solely to make the insurance regulations more desirable.

The authors of a recent scholarly book on the history and origins of the N&P Clause added their own enlightening amicus brief. According to them, the "necessary" requirement meant an "inferior" power deemed a necessary or customary means of executing a greater power - e.g., creating a national bank to collect revenues and make expenditures or adopting criminal laws or civil fines to deter violation of another law. The "proper" requirement invoked certain kinds of fiduciary responsibilities like impartiality and good faith. Under the proper understanding of the clause, they argued, the "individual mandate" failed to meet either requirement.

So the Court has much to choose from in analyzing whether the individual mandate is justified under the Necessary & Proper Clause. We can only hope that its decision will at least address some of the arguments noted here.


* * *

I want to close by responding briefly to Professor Metzger's suggestion that the Court cannot declare the statute facially unconstitutional under its precedents. This ignores the unique posture of Commerce Clause cases in which Congress's power to regulate activities "substantially affecting commerce" are decided. As Professor Metzger's well-known Columbia Law Review article itself noted, the Court's "class of activities" test in that area has rendered as-applied challenges "in practice impossible." (105 Col. L. Rev. at 906.) Moreover, Alfonso Lopez was actually being paid to deliver a gun and Christy Brzonkala (the private plaintiff in Morrison) argued strenuously that the statute there could be upheld as applied because it affected financial transactions she would have made with her college. If the Court ignores any "as applied" possibilities here, it will be nothing new. To the contrary, it will be consistent with its practice in this area.

Thanks to Point of Law and the Manhattan Institute for letting me participate in this excellent discussion!

Gillian Metzger
Vice Dean and Stanley H. Fuld Professor of Law, Columbia Law School

One well-established federalism argument was notably absent for most of the oral argument last week: the role that political accountability plays in checking Congress. Political accountability repeatedly appears in congressional power decisions, going back to Chief Justice Marshall's decisions in McCulloch v. Maryland and Gibbons v. Ogden. In more recent years, the Court famously invoked political accountability as a reason for the Court to not exempt the states from generally applicable legislation in Garcia v. San Antonio Metropolitan Transit Authority, and then subsequently as a justification for the Court to protect states from federal commandeering in New York v. United States and Printz v. United States.

But political accountability barely surfaced in the argument on the individual mandate, raised primarily by Justice Breyer who described political accountability as "the greatest limiting principle of all" on Congress, but one "which not too many accept." (Tr. 76). It was not until midway through the last ACA argument, on the Medicaid expansion, that the topic of political accountability was more fully engaged. Political accountability was Paul Clement's answer when Justice Kennedy asked "[h]ow are the interests of federalism concerned if ... there are huge Federal bureaucracies doing what this bill allows the state bureaucracies to do?" (Tr. 37). Justice Kennedy then pushed Solicitor General Verrilli on the subject, asking "do you agree that there still is ... necessary for the idea of federalism, that there be a clear line of accountability so the citizen knows that it's the Federal or the State government who should be held responsible for their program?"(Tr. 65-66).

This largely one-sided invocation of political accountability on behalf of the ACA's challengers should be surprising. To begin with, political accountability would seem to count in favor of the Medicaid expansion. Political pressure from their citizens is a major reason that the states feel compelled to participate in Medicaid; turning down the substantial federal funds offered to subsidize healthcare for poor state residents is not a popular political choice. Thus, what the states are seeking is to be freed from political accountability for such a decision, rather than to have their accountability enhanced. Nor does the claim that state voters are confused about which government to blame for features of federally-funded state programs fit recent experience. States have had no difficulty pointing the finger at the feds for the impact Medicaid requirements have on state budgets, or for the testing and accountability measures mandated by No Child Left Behind's conditions on federal educational funds.

As important, this one-sided approach obscures the extent to which the ACA is a product of longstanding political debate over how to assure individuals and families in this nation affordable access to healthcare.The rejection of the "public option" in favor of a model based on private insurance reflected, in part, the judgment of Congress that the former would constitute too dramatic and intrusive move on the part of the federal government. Political pressure is also responsible for the central role accorded to the states in key reforms, such as the reliance on state health exchanges and state insurance regulators. Recognizing that the political safeguards of federalism still have potency does not mean that the Court should stay out and leave federalism enforcement to Congress. But it underscores that Congress is not simply out to expand its own powers, and that its legislative judgments about how best to balance federal and state functions need to be taken seriously.

Finally, in response to my earlier post on facial challenges, Michael Rosman argues that sustaining a facial challenge to the mandate is consistent with the Court's commerce clause precedent in United States v. Lopez and United States v. Morrison. In fact, the opposite conclusion follows. Rosman is correct that in those cases the Court sustained facial challenges. But it did so after concluding that the class of activities regulated by the legislation at issue in those cases was noneconomic activity that fell outside of the scope of the commerce power. The point I was highlighting is that a similar conclusion is hard to justify here, given the seeming agreement that a broad swath of the activity regulated by the mandate would indeed fall within Congress's power. Put differently, as a regulation of the class of activity of accessing and financing healthcare, the mandate is facially constitutional. If the Court views Lopez and Morrison as limiting it to facial resolution in the commerce power context, then it should stop there; the tests for facial invalidation simply are not met. Moreover, the Roberts Court has repeatedly emphasized that facial challenges should be viewed with disfavor, which should counsel heavily against suddenly switching to a more lenient approach to facial challenges.

Many thanks for the chance to participate in this engaged debate.

Ideologies of Federalism

April 3, 2012 11:59 AM

Erwin Chemerinsky
Dean and Distinguished Professor of Law,
University of California, Irvine School of Law

Since the country's earliest days, federalism has been used as a political argument primarily in support of conservative causes. During the early 19th century, John Calhoun argued that states had independent sovereignty and could interpose their authority between the federal government and the people to nullify federal actions restricting slavery.

In the early 20th century, federalism was successfully used as the basis for challenging federal laws regulating child labor, imposing the minimum wage, and protecting consumers. During the depression, conservatives objected to President Franklin Roosevelt's proposals, such as Social Security, on the ground that they usurped functions properly left to state governments.

During the 1950s and the 1960s, objections to federal civil rights efforts were phrased primarily in terms of federalism. Southerners challenged Supreme Court decisions mandating desegregation and objected to proposed federal civil rights legislation by resurrecting the arguments of John Calhoun. Segregation and discrimination were defended not on the grounds that they were desirable practices, and more in terms of the states' rights to choose their own laws concerning race relations.

In the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan proclaimed a "new federalism" as the basis for attempting to dismantle federal social welfare programs. In his first presidential inaugural address, President Reagan said that he sought to "restore the balance between levels of government." Federalism was thus employed as the basis for cutting back on countless federal programs.

Hindsight reveals that federalism has been primarily a conservative argument used to resist progressive federal efforts, especially in the areas of civil rights and social welfare. It is no surprise, then, that in their questioning of the lawyers, the conservative justices expressed great skepticism about the constitutionality of key aspects of the Affordable Care Act.

But after reading the transcripts of the oral arguments (and listening to much of them), I remain convinced that this should be an easy case for the Court. The individual mandate is no different from social security tax that allows an exemption for those with their own retirement account. It is hard to imagine how Congress cannot regulate under its commerce power a segment of the economy that is $2.6 trillion, especially as Justices Scalia and Kennedy acknowledged because those who do not purchase insurance directly affect the rates of those who do. If Congress, under its commerce power, can regulate Angela Raich growing marijuana for her own personal use, surely it can regulate health insurance.

Nor should the constitutionality of the increased burden on the states to participate in the Medicaid program be a difficult question. No state is required to participate in the Medicaid program. If it chooses to do so, it must meet certain conditions. This is true of countless federal programs. Under the current Medicaid law, the federal government pays between 50 and 80% of a state's costs. But under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government initially pays 100% and in 2021 it becomes 90%. If the burden on the states under the Affordable Care Act violates the Tenth Amendment, then why doesn't the current law? There is a difference between forcing the states to do something and given them a strong financial inducement.

The oral arguments gave no clear sense of what the Court will do, except perhaps that there does not seem to be a majority to dismiss the case based on the Anti-Injunction Act. The justices asked hard questions of both sides and pundits offering predictions are just picking the ones that most support their views.

Every lower federal court judge appointed by a Republican President, with two exceptions, voted to strike down the law. Every lower federal court judge appointed by a Democratic President, with one exception, voted to uphold the law. The crucial question is whether the Supreme Court justices will see it any other way. Will the historic liberal and conservative divide over states' rights determine the outcome of this case? We'll know in June.

Richard A. Epstein
Laurence A. Tisch Professor of Law, New York University School of Law

The excellent posts by Gillian Metzger and Erwin Chemerinsky go beyond the particulars of the Affordable Care Act to address more general considerations of federalism. Stated in a nutshell, their view of the subject is that broad conceptions of political accountability afford the one key check that is needed on adventuresome legislation by which the federal government is respectful of the role that the states play in the structure of the political system. To Gillian Metzger, for example, the Medicaid expansion program should be approved because the states have to take political accountability for their decisions. She writes:

Political pressure from their citizens is a major reason that the states feel compelled to participate in Medicaid; turning down the substantial federal funds offered to subsidize healthcare for poor state residents is not a popular political choice.

This argument misses the force of the case against the Medicaid expansion. Why not divide the states into two classes? Those states that want to accept the program should, in my view, be entitled to participate even if key portions of the Medicaid expansions are cut. By the same token, the states that don't want to accept the program should be free to turn it down without having to sacrifice all the funds that are now contributed by the federal government to allow the states to run their programs for persons whose income is below poverty levels.

Put otherwise, the only objection here is to the unprecedented--to use everyone's favorite term--conditions that the federal government uses to bully states into the program. They are not allowed to reorganize the delivery of their services for the below-poverty line populations. And they must incur the very heavy administrative costs of running the expanded Medicaid program for new individuals.

In addition, Metzger's argument has to do work not only for this particular iteration of the Medicaid expansion, but also has to carry the day if the federal government added new burdens or new conditions to the Medicaid expansion. A state like California receives some $25 billion in Medicaid money for its current recipients. It will, as a moral certainty, be driven into the new program so long as its conditions cost it less than the money it forfeits.

We should, moreover, reject the reply that the loss of funds goes to the individual recipients and not to the state. But so what? This is not a condition wherein the federal government says to California that if you do not play along, then we shall take the money from Medicaid recipients in Oregon. Clearly the target was to drive the state which has all sorts of special obligations to its own citizens. One might as well say that there is no coercion involved when the gun man says give me your wallet or I will kill your mother.

None of these dire conclusions are softened by the political accountability doctrine.Taken to its limits, the doctrine means that the Constitution imposes no limits whatsoever on what the federal government can do in its relationships with the state by taxation, regulation and spending. Indeed, it goes so far that the terrible decision in South Dakota v. Dole is needlessly protective of the state because there is no such thing as coercion in the use of any of its powers. Yet if the doctrine does not go that far, then just how far does it go? Neither Metzger, nor any other defender of the doctrine explain its limits.

Indeed the situation is worse than this, because Metzger offers no explanation as to why there is not tremendous political exposure to those states that wish to reject the funds, just as there is to those states that want to accept them. This is one of the major decisions that state governments have to make, and if they make the wrong one, they will pay a price. Put otherwise, there is always political accountability. The key question therefore, is to get the federalism arrangements correct. It is not to use this doctrine as a trump that obviates the need to make a closer review of the overall situation.

Space does not permit a full examination of the Chemerinsky post that engages in too much name-calling and not enough analysis. There are many uses and abuses of federalism in dealing with federal state relationships. There are also many explicit limitations that the Constitution places on the states through the Fourteenth Amendment that it authorizes the Congress to enforce against the states by appropriate legislation. John Calhoun no longer walks the halls of Congress, and indeed the great sin of the Reconstruction period was its narrow construction of the Privileges or Immunities Clause, which allowed southern states exclusive and abusive control over the criminal justice system.

What that has to do with the current issue is anyone's guess. For different, the invocation of competitive federalism in connection with the child labor laws raises other issues, only here competitive federalism worked far better than a national standard. Chemerinsky is so committed to progressive causes that he is blind to the way in which his own brand of politics is used to sanctify the New Deal transformation of a Constitution of limited federal powers into one that allows federal force to control markets where it ought not to enter. It is, alas, too late to turn back the clock on Wickard v. Filburn. It is high time to recognize its massive errors by refusing to extend its logic one inch further.

Let us hope that the Supreme Court will exorcize the political accountability doctrine, and strike down both Title I and Title II of the ACA.

A Sense of Deja Vu

April 4, 2012 11:51 AM

Orin S. Kerr
Professor of Law, George Washington Law School

Five years ago, I participated in an online debate much like this one with several of the participants in our exchange today. The discussion focused on a pending case, the then-recent decision of the Fourth Circuit in al-Marri v. Wright. Al Marri had held that a suspected al Qaeda terrorist who was seized in the United States could not be held in military detention. Erwin Chemerinsky weighed in, as did Richard Epstein and myself.

Five years later, the band is back together. Or at least some of us are. A different President is in power, and the political stakes have changed. It's a different website. And this time around we're discussing the scope of Congressional power, not the detention power. Judicial power has switched from a liberal position to a conservative one, and judicial restraint from a conservative position to a liberal one. But the debate seems to be similar, even though many analysts have changed sides.

I drew the comparison earlier, but I think it's worth revisiting. In both the health care and the detention debates, the general disagreement boils down to judicial deference versus adherence to constitutional norms seen as embedded in the text. In the detention cases the text was the Habeas Clause, and the norm was that the Great Writ must guarantee judicial review of detention. In the case of the health care litigation, the text is the Commerce Clause, and the norm is that the federal government must be a government of limited powers. In both cases, the opposing side acknowledges the basic principle but concludes that it does not require invalidating the law or practice at issue, especially in light of the need to defer to the elected branches. It's not exactly the same question, of course. But I think there are some very interesting similarities.

However the Court rules, I suppose we can all look forward to 2017, when we'll be back to debate the next round in the separation of powers battle among the three branches.

James Copland

In March, concurrent with the historic three-day oral argument before the Supreme Court considering the constitutionality of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, we hosted a discussion of the issues in play, including Erwin Chemerinsky, Richard Epstein, Orin Kerr, Gillian Metzger, Michael Rosman, and Nadine Strossen. With the Court announcing its decision today, we've invited these guests back to share their opinions, if they wish, alongside those of the Manhattan Institute's own scholars.

Adam Freedman

I'm not quite glass-half-full on the ObamaCare decision, but it does have its silver linings. I agree with the dissenters on all points, including the point that Roberts' re-characterization of the "penalty" provision as a tax is essentially an activist decision, for reasons I'll get to below.

On the good news front, the Court struck down (for the first time) a scheme of conditional federal grants as being unduly coercive against the states -- that would be ACA's Medicaid expansion which threatened to pull the plug on all Medicaid dollars for states that don't march in lockstep with the feds.

Also good -- very good -- is the fact that the Court rejected the administrations two primary arguments: that the individual mandate is justified under the Commerce Clause and the Necessary and Proper Clause. So now we know: Congress cannot use its regulatory power to compel activity. There must be some pre-existing activity (and it has to be of an "economic" nature) for Congress to be able to regulate.

But then the bad -- very bad -- news: Roberts accepted the validity of the mandate as a "tax" imposed to promote the "general welfare." As a matter of original meaning, this conclusion is incoherent. Everything we know about the original understanding of the text tells us that it was not meant to authorize Congress to use its taxing power to achieve ends that it could not do under its enumerated powers. Unfortunately, however, that conclusion is supported by precedent going back to the 1937 Helvering v. Davis. It is the Hamiltonian view of "general welfare." I don't buy it, but it was not likely that the Court was going to revive the Madisonian (correct) view of general welfare at this date.

So, Congress cannot compel you to enter into commerce, but it can tax you if you refuse to enter into commerce. What are the limits to this doctrine? As far as I can tell they are:

  • The tax cannot be so high that people have no choice but to purchase health insurance [or whatever product or service Congress decides to mandate next];
  • Congress cannot attach any other "negative legal consequences" to the failure to engage in commerce; e.g., Congress cannot impose criminal or civil penalties for failing to buy health insurance.
  • The tax must be imposed regardless of intent, thus, Congress can't impose a tax only on those who "intentionally refuse to buy health insurance."
  • The tax must be collected in the same manner as other taxes, ie, via the IRS.

The dangerous part of his decision is not that he expanded the scope of the "taxing power" (as I explain above, existing precedents already did that) but he greatly expanded the Court's power to reclassify a regulatory measure as a "tax." Roberts relies on the principle that if courts are faced with differing interpretations of a law, they should choose the interpretation that upholds the law. But that assumes that the competing interpretations are plausible. Here, Congress was absolutely crystal clear in categorizing the "shared responsibility payment" as a "penalty," i.e., a means to enforce a regulatory command, and not a tax. The President who signed the law emphatically denied it was a tax.

A Court re-writing a statute to achieve a certain result is the very definition of judicial acitivism. For the Court to rewrite a law so as to impose a tax is doubly disturbing. As the dissenters say: "Imposing a tax through judicial legislation inverts the constitutional scheme, and places the power to tax in the branch of government least accountable to the citizenry."

Ted Frank

The second-silliest reactions coming from today's ACA opinion are the conservatives comparing Bush II's nomination of Roberts to Bush I's nomination of Souter. This is hardly fair. Roberts has been a sound fifth conservative vote on critically important First and Second Amendment issues; he's consistently refused to abuse the Eighth Amendment to strike down legitimate exercises of state legislative power in criminal law; he's consistently enforced Congress's limitations on habeas relief. And today, he signed onto both the broadest restrictions of Congress's Commerce Clause power in decades and the first teeth in South Dakota v. Dole, limiting the ability of the federal government to bully the states. (The silliest reaction? The retroactive wishes for Justice Harriet Miers—which would be objectively silly even if it wasn't for the historical fact that Miers was nominated for Alito's seat, not Roberts's.)

One can be dismayed about the broad scope of the taxing power implicated by today's decision, but that is not anything new; for example, you've been paying extra taxes for failing to buy an electric car since at least the 2001 tax year, and extra taxes for not having a residential mortgage for even longer. (These are called tax credits, rather than penalties or taxes, but they're economically indistinguishable at the margin or otherwise, somewhat refuting Richard Epstein's complaint.)

The complaint is perhaps whether the "penalty" should be called a "tax" when Congress refused to call it a "tax"; the dissent would hold Congress to its language, while Roberts, alone, looks purely at the economics of the matter. Both arguments are colorable: after all, the Court has previously characterized "taxes" as "penalties" when they held the character of penalties, so why not vice versa? To which the Scalia dissent responds that this is the first time the Court has done so, and it is the finest of hair-splitting to say that a penalty isn't a tax for purposes of the Anti-Injunction Act, but is for purposes of the Taxing Power inquiry.

I've previously been unhappy with Roberts's tendencies to blue-line rewrite statutes to avoid tough constitutional questions; the canon of constitutional avoidance is one thing, but creating non-existent text to fix problems just seems to me outside the Article III power. We saw this in Free Enterprise Fund, NAMUDNO, and Wisconsin Right to Life. With it happening again today both in the construction of the penalty as a tax and the rewrite of the Medicaid penalties to the states, we can officially note an unhappy trend in the Chief Justice Roberts jurisprudence.

ACA opponents have an out in the Roberts opinion: it remains prohibited for the taxing power to be excessively punitive, a matter not well raised in the briefs. "Because the tax at hand is within even those strict limits, we need not here decide the precise point at which an exaction becomes so punitive that the taxing power does not authorize it" (slip op. 43). But ACA imposes marginal income "taxes" of over 100% on certain members of the middle class who are in a particular donut-hole of income. Expect to see a new challenge in the future on this, and on other aspects of ACA.

Update: Typos in the Scalia dissent—which repeatedly refer to the "Ginsburg dissent"—show that it was originally meant as a majority opinion? [DeLong; see also Bernstein @ Volokh] One hopes very much that the Roberts flip was a sincere decision consistent with his previous overbroad canon of constitutional avoidance, rather than a "switch in time to save nine" prompted by the offensive degree of lobbying and attacks on the Court's integrity by the Obama administration and its allies.

Nadine Strossen
Professor of Law, New York Law School
President, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), 1991-2008

The Court's decision is hard to summarize in a simple headline because of its multiple holdings, which were supported by majority votes comprised of differing subsets of the Justices. To be sure, the bottom-line result of the Court's central holding was to sustain Congressional power to enact the Affordable Care Act's minimum coverage requirement. However, the Court's overall analysis and multiple subsidiary holdings, viewed as a whole, actually endorse a notable reining-in of the federal government's power in several respects. This was underscored by the partial dissent that Justice Ginsburg authored on behalf of the Court's four more "liberal" Justices, objecting to these holdings.

The decision's cutbacks on federal power were reflected in the following holdings, which were supported by the Court's more "conservative" Justices:

  • The Court rejected the central rationale of the U.S. and other proponents of the Act -- that Congress had the power to pass it under the Commerce Clause and/or the Necessary and Proper Clause.

  • For only the third time since 1937, the Court held that Congress had exceeded its Commerce Clause power.

  • The Court substantially cut back on the very broad construction it has consistently given to the Necessary and Proper Clause, including in recent rulings.

  • The Court partially invalidated the "Medicaid expansion" provision - which grants additional federal funds to states to expand Medicaid coverage, on the condition that the states comply with certain federal requirements for such coverage - holding that this provision exceeded Congress's power under the Taxing and Spending Clause. The Court has repeatedly held that Congress may condition its financial grants to states on a range of requirements. While the Court has in the past nodded to the possibility that some conditions might hypothetically be so onerous as to overstep Congress's power and unduly constrain states' autonomy, this was the first time the Court has ever struck down any federal funding program on that basis.

In sum, the above holdings explicitly reined in Congress's powers under three separate power-granting constitutional clauses: the Commerce Clause, the Necessary and Proper Clause, and the Taxing and Spending Clause.

Nor are these power-restricting holdings likely to be offset, in terms of federal power in future contexts, by the Court's holding that the minimum coverage provision was authorized by Congress's taxing power. That's because the Court framed this holding extremely narrowly in several ways, including by anchoring it to the specific facts of this unique case.

In short, while the Court did uphold federal power in this case, its specific rationales may well have a net impact of limiting federal power in future contexts.

Richard Epstein
Laurence A. Tisch Professor of Law, New York University School of Law
Visiting Scholar, Manhattan Institute's Center for Legal Policy

There are many oddities in the decision of the United States Supreme Court, but there is one trend that seems clearly to have been strengthened by the split decision in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius. On the one hand it looks as though the ability of the federal government to impose direct regulations on individuals has been increased by the decision. There is nothing in the case that cuts back on the scope of Wickard v. Filburn that deals with the ability of the government to regulate all sorts of activities, no matter how small, that have some substantial effect on commerce in the aggregate. That power is the source of great mischief because it permits the federal government to organize cartels in agriculture that the states themselves could never put together.

Yet at the same time, this new found tax is an expansion of the taxing power to cover an odd set of activities including not buying health care insurance. So add the two points together, and there is more direct power in the federal government over individuals than before the case, or at least there is not less.

Yet the Court also struck down the Medicaid extension as coercive against the states. That decision rested on the view that it is not permissible to take away all Medicaid money from states that do not choose to agree to the Medicaid expansion. What it suggests is that the exercise of federal power in commandeering the states is now more limited than we had previously expected. After all, every lower court rejected the challenge that was accepted 7 to 2.

It will take a long time to sort out the relative strength of the two decisions. But make no mistake about it, knocking down a multi-billion dollar initiative is no small potatoes.


Michael E. Rosman
General Counsel, The Center for Individual Rights

Today's decision demonstrates how both difficult and fascinating enumerated powers cases can be. Much can be said, but I would like to address one brief issue. Was there a holding today that the Individual Mandate was not a proper exercise of Congress's Commerce Clause and Necessary and Proper ("N&P") Clause powers?

The Chief claimed that there was, and he did so in Part III-C, which was designated as part of the Opinion of the Court (joined by Ginsburg, et al). Roberts Op. at 41-42 ("The Court today holds that our Constitution protects us from federal regulation under the Commerce Clause so long as we abstain from the regulated activity.") (emphasis added). Really? It is true that five Justices concluded that the Individual Mandate could not be justified under that constitutional power (and the N&P Clause), but four of them (Scalia, Alito, Kennedy, and Thomas) were in dissent (at least as to the constitutionality of the Individual Mandate issue). In United States v. Morrison, the Court specifically rejected the proposition that the conclusion of six Justices in United States v. Guest -- three in a concurrence and three in dissent - that Congress could reach private conduct under Section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment, was a binding holding of the Court. U.S. v. Morrison, 529 U.S. 598, 624 (2000) ("This is simply not the way that reasoned constitutional adjudication proceeds.").

Today, Justice Ginsburg chided the Chief for even reaching the Commerce Clause question, which she thought was unnecessary given his opinion on the Tax Power. (She was right, of course, but the same thing could have been said about her own opinion.) Did she, and those joining her opinion, nonetheless think that the Court had held that the Individual Mandate was unconstitutional under the Commerce and N&P Clauses, as Part III-C of the Chief's opinion (for the Court, remember, joined by Ginsburg, et al.) says? Isn't unnecessary legal analysis what we call dicta? Curious, then, that the Reporter of Decision, in the summary of the decision, does not identify Part III-A of the Chief's opinion (in which he discusses the Commerce and N&P Clauses) as part of the opinion for the Court. Nor does the heading above the Chief's opinion (parts of which say "Opinion of the Court" and other parts of which say "Opinion of Roberts, C.J.").

So, was there a Commerce Clause holding? Maybe, but I doubt any subsequent Court that wants to ignore it will have difficulty doing so.

The Implications

June 29, 2012 9:41 AM | No Comments

Erwin Chemerinsky
Dean and Distinguished Professor of Law,
University of California, Irvine School of Law

Now that the anticipation is over and the decision has been read (all 193 pages), attention must focus on how, if at all, the Court's decision has changed the law. There were three major conclusions to the Court's decision.

First, the individual mandate is within the scope of Congress taxing power. This, unquestionably, is the most important aspect of the Court's decision and it doesn't change the law at all. The Court's conclusion that the individual mandate is a tax breaks no new ground. The Supreme Court previously had said that the label used in not determinative. Nor is it at all surprising that this was treated as a tax. It is in every way functionally a tax: it is collected by the IRS, it is calculated by a percentage of income (or a flat rate), and it generates revenue for the federal government. Not one federal tax has been declared unconstitutional since 1937 and so upholding this one is not remarkable in terms of the law.

Second, five justices said that the individual mandate is outside the scope of the commerce power. From one perspective, this is just dicta because the Court upheld the individual mandate on other grounds. But Chief Justice Roberts said that he needed to decide this in order to justify interpreting the individual mandate as a tax. That seems a dubious justification for his addressing the commerce power or making his discussion a holding. But putting that aside, five justices said that Congress cannot regulate inactivity. This seems highly questionable as applied here because everyone is engaged in activity with regard to health care; they are either purchasing health insurance or self-insuring. Congress was regulating the latter. Still, it is not clear how much this will matter in the future since it is rare for Congress to require activity.

The third holding is the most important in changing the law: the Supreme Court said that the burden on the states with regard to Medicaid funding exceeded the scope of Congress's spending power because it was too coercive. This is the first time in American history that conditions on federal spending have been declared unconstitutional as being unduly coercive. Many federal spending programs impose conditions on states taking federal money. There likely will be many challenges after the Court's decision. But the Court did not give any criteria as to how to decide when conditions are so coercive as to violate the Constitution.

Overall, the decision must be seen as following 75 years of Supreme Court decisions upholding federal social welfare legislation. If the Court had done anything else, that would have been a very dramatic change in the law.

James Copland

In my estimation, the most significant part of yesterday's Obamacare ruling was not its handling of the individual mandate but its limitation on Congress's power to coerce states through federal funding--a holding that will become critical as the health-care law is implemented and in many other cases in the future.

To uphold the ACA's "individual mandate" and its private-insurance reforms, the Chief Justice somewhat brazenly rewrote a regulatory penalty as a tax - a reading his opinion itself admitted was not the most common-sense reading of the statutory language. The Chief's reading was hardly a model of statutory construction, but it was motivated by the conservative doctrine of "constitutional avoidance": the principle, first embraced by Chief Justice Marshall in the 1833 case Ex parte Randolph, that given the "delicacy" of the courts overturning the acts of coordinate branches (and the difficulty of amending the constitution), "a just respect for the legislature requires, that the obligation of its laws should not be unnecessarily and wantonly assailed" through the judiciary's application of the constitutional power of judicial review.

The Chief Justice was very likely motivated by institutional concerns, as outlined persuasively by Charles Krauthammer. As Krauthammer notes, as Chief Justice, Roberts wears "dual hats," and in his role as "custodian of the court" he is "acutely aware that the judiciary's arrogation of power has eroded the esteem in which it was once held." Krauthammer is right that most of this arrogation occurred during the liberal era of Earl Warren and William Brennan, but also that the Court's decision in Bush v. Gore to halt the recount in Florida in a presidential election--however necessary to avoid a constitutional crisis being engendered by an irresponsible Florida judiciary--substantially eroded the Court's public perception, particularly given that case's 5-4 ideological split. The president had already shown an unhealthy willingness to demagogue the Court over its Citizens United decision and had signaled an intention to do the same should the Court overturn his administration's signature legislative accomplishment on constitutional grounds. Roberts was almost certainly haunted by the specter of Schechter Poultry, in which the Court in 1935 overturned the National Industrial Recovery Act (a signature of Roosevelt's New Deal, however misguided), and proceeded to provoke a showdown with the president that culminated in FDR's threat to "pack the Court" with new appointees.

Thus, the Chief Justice turned to perhaps disingenuous statutory construction to uphold the law in question. In the process, however, he labored to lay out some conservative markers that set boundaries on Congressional power and signal that the federal government is not one of unlimited powers under the constitution. To be sure, the taxing power is broad, but as Ted Frank suggested, that was already the law of the land before yesterday. (As I noted in my instant reaction to the case over at NRO, "Congress already can and does penalize us for acting or not acting in hosts of areas, including such sacred realms as getting married or having children.") But Nadine Strossen is right (in her analysis if not its normative framing): when you look at this decision in terms of constitutional interpretation, rather than statutory construction, you see a Court sketching out definitive limits on the application of Congressional power through the Commerce Clause, Necessary and Proper Clause, and Spending Clause.

Indeed, like Jay Cost, I see echoes of Chief Justice Marshall in Roberts's gambit here. In Marbury v. Madison, Marshall gave Jefferson what he wanted (he refused to order that Jefferson issue mandates to the remaining Federalist judges appointed under the Judiciary Act of 1801) even as he laid down the principle of judicial review. That decision paved the way for Fletcher v. Peck--when the Court assumed the power of judicial review over states--as well as the Court's broader readings of the Commerce Clause (Gibbons v. Ogden) and Necessary and Proper Clause (McCullough v. Maryland) that were to come. While yesterday's rulings didn't get us all the way back to Gibbons and McCullough, they clearly insisted that there's an outer bound to what Congress can do under those grants of power.

More significant still is the Court's decision to place limits on Congress's ability to coerce states to act through conditional use of the federal spending power. The 1987 case South Dakota v. Dole left a gaping hole that ran through the 1990s federalism decisions that kept Congress from applying the Commerce Clause to non-economic activity (Lopez and Morrison), kept Congress from applying the Commerce Clause to create private rights of action against states (Seminole Tribe and Alden), and prohibited Congress from "commandeering" states to act according to federal dictate (New York and Printz): what's the functional point of prohibiting Congress from "commandeering the states" if they can effectively coerce/induce the states to conform to Congress's will through the virtually untrammeled grants of federal money? While Dole suggested that there was a theoretical limit to Congress's ability to influence states through the Spending Clause--in which "inducement" became "coercion"--neither the Supreme Court nor lower courts had ever found an occasion to do so.

Until yesterday. Richard Epstein noted the importance of the Spending Clause question, but most other analysts ignored it, as did the lower courts, in keeping with post-Dole jurisprudence. But if it's not "plainly coercive" to condition state receipt of Medicaid funds on state compliance with Congressional dictates--noting that Medicaid is second only to education spending in most state budgets--then when would it ever be? In the minds of Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor, the answer is essentially never, but the real constitutional problem under the Spending Clause is laid bare by the fact that the conservatives on the Court were joined in this part of the case by Justice Kagan, President Obama's former solicitor general, and Justice Breyer, Senator Ted Kennedy's former staffer.

Yes, the Court permitted Congress to condition the Medicaid expansions on state compliance--thus making this holding an outer bound rather than a major check on Congressional influence over the states through the Spending Clause. But expect more litigation in the future. At a minimum, Congress will have to check itself when it invokes the Spending Clause.

And although Obamacare survives, the ability for states to opt out of the Medicaid provisions is the greatest prospect for reining in the statute's excesses if it isn't repealed. As my colleagues Avik Roy and Paul Howard noted in our panel discussion of the decision last night (around minute 33- of the videotaped program), there is the real prospect that some states could shift costs onto the federal government by opting out, so that even if most states won't do so (and they won't), the threat of exit could increase state bargaining power to negotiate waivers of some of the new law's most overreaching provisions.

At a minimum, through this decision, the Court holds onto the premise that the federal government (at least outside the taxing power) is one of limited, enumerated powers--and in the process reifies and amplifies its 1990s federalism decisions. From a constitutional law standpoint, there's something in there for conservatives to cheer.

To be sure, it's only the outer bounds that come into play in such constitutional judgments--because constitutional law is largely about boundary limits (which is why it's a bit odd that so many legal thinkers focus on it so obsessively--at the expense of the nitty-gritty questions of civil litigation, criminal prosecution, and corporate governance that we primarily concern ourselves with at the Center for Legal Policy, where real outcomes are at play). As Alex Bickel understood, in a democratic republic, elected majorities will ultimately get their way; and we're unlikely to see a return to the era in which the Progressive and New Deal courts turned back the tide of popular opinion. (We may or may not one day be able to get rid of Wickard v. Filburn, but we won't get rid of Helvering v. Davis or bring back Panama Refining v. Ryan and Schechter Poultry, and therein lie the heart of the welfare and regulatory state.) Elections matter--and that's where the fate of Obamacare will ultimately rest.

James R. Copland

On Wednesday, February 27, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in American Express v. Italian Colors, the latest in a string of recent cases in which the Court tackles arbitration and the class action device. To preview, react to, and assess the argument, we are happy to welcome Cardozo law professor Myriam Gilles alongside our own Ted Frank.

Italian Colors involves an asserted antitrust claim filed by a class of vendors against American Express, alleging that the AmEx "accept all cards" policy constitutes an illegal "tying arrangement" by linking the card company's less-desirable credit-card customers with its more desirable charge-card clientele. The Second Circuit determined that AmEx could not invoke its contractual arbitration clause because individual arbitrations would make the expert witness necessary to assert the antitrust claim cost-ineffective--in the court's view, denying the plaintiffs the ability to vindicate a federal statutory remedy. Five judges dissented from the denial of a rehearing in banc, led by Chief Judge Jacobs's blistering dissent, joined by Judges Cabranes and Livingston, which accused the panel of substituting its public-policy preferences for Supreme Court precedents on the enforceability of arbitration clauses' waiver of class-action remedies, most recently in AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion.

Professor Gilles--who teaches torts, advanced torts, class actions, and aggregate litigation--has criticized Concepcion, warning that "most class cases will not survive the impending tsunami of class action waivers" in the decision's wake. In contrast, Frank--the founder of the Center for Class Action Fairness as well as a Manhattan Institute adjunct fellow and editor of Point of Law--has argued that such concerns are "overwrought," and that post-Concepcion, "many forms of class action lawsuits will continue, and those that are replaced by individual arbitration will generally lead to greater consumer protection, not less." It is my pleasure to welcome Professor Gilles, and I trust that her discussion with Ted will prove illuminating.

By Myriam Gilles

After seven years of appellate litigation, including three rounds at the Second Circuit and two trips to the Supreme Court, in the final footnote of its Reply Brief, American Express has abandoned - stunningly - its primary policy argument. Amex has consistently argued that a ruling for the merchants would open the floodgates to a torrent of challenges to its and other companies' arbitration clauses, and that an "Amex exception" would swallow the "Concepcion rule." The merchants, meanwhile, have said "No, the floodgates are already slamming shut as companies enact liberal, vindication-enabling arbitration agreements - and especially, agreements that allow prevailing arbitral claimants to shift the cost of expert witnesses."

Now, in footnote 8 of Amex's Reply Brief on the merits, comes the bombshell: Amex has just recently promulgated a new version of its merchant agreement with an arbitration provision that shifts the costs of expert witnesses in favor of a prevailing arbitral claimant. Never again can a merchant complain (as the merchants here do) that the unavailability of both collective action and cost-shifting, combined with proscriptions against sharing information across arbitrations, precludes them from being able to vindicate their rights in arbitration. While footnote 8 makes clear that "Petitioners do not rely on this amendment in their challenge to the decision below," the fact is that in future cases the Amex clause will allow cost-shifting. The merchants' proffered test is whether the proven non-recoupable costs exceed the recovery sought. If all costs are recoupable, the inquiry is over before it starts. For this corporate defendant, the floodgate is closed.

Vindicating vindication

February 27, 2013 8:05 AM | No Comments

by Ted Frank

This might be a short debate! From the beginning, I've defended Concepcion because I believe nothing in Concepcion precluded consumers from vindicating their rights. American Express's briefing, however, has focused on a theory that they can do with an arbitration clause what it would be plainly impossible to do with any other contractual clause. AmEx couldn't have a "tying arrangement" waiver clause; it couldn't even have a procedural clause to agree to restrict the use of expert witnesses in antitrust disputes. And—theoretically at least—a monopolist would not face the market competition that would force it to pass along the savings from arbitration to consumers, making the argument for where to draw the line to force arbitration weaker in antitrust cases than other cases. The Federal Arbitration Act says that arbitration clauses are not to be disfavored, not that they get special treatment from the courts.

The Second Circuit, however, did disfavor AmEx's arbitration clause, and thus failed to correctly apply the Federal Arbitration Act. They did that by giving the record and the arbitration clause a cribbed reading to reach its preferred result. The Supreme Court should correct that kind of abuse, or judges will be able to undo the FAA with the sort of rulings that the Court criticized in Concepcion, but just classify them as "vindication" decisions rather than "unconscionability" decisions.

 

 

 

FEATURED DISCUSSION ARCHIVE:


Obamacare Decision: Reactions, July 2012
Law School Faculty Diversity, May-June 2012
Class Actions, May 2012
Constitutionality of Individual Mandate, March 2012
Human Rights and International Law, February-March 2012
The constitutionality of President Obama's recess appointments, January 2012
Do caps on medical malpractice damages hurt consumers?, December 2011
Trial Lawyers Inc.: State Attorneys General, October 2011
Wal-Mart v. Dukes, April 2011
Kagan Supreme Court nomination, May-June 2010
Election roundtable, November-December 2006
Who's the boss, September 2006
Medical judgement, July 2006
Lawyer Licensing, May 2006
Contingent claims, April 2006
Smoking guns, July 2004

Isaac Gorodetski
Project Manager,
Center for Legal Policy at the
Manhattan Institute
igorodetski@manhattan-institute.org

Katherine Lazarski
Press Officer,
Manhattan Institute
klazarski@manhattan-institute.org

Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.