The Affordable Care Act has survived (mostly) what should be the biggest legal challenge it will ever face – a 5-4 decision in support from the Supreme Court.
In perhaps what will go down as one of the biggest decisions in the 2010s decade, the Supreme Court of the United States unexpectedly sided with the Obama Administration in support of the Affordable Choice Act – ACA (or Obamacare, if you must… Romneycare if you’re even worse). At least it mostly did. The 5 – 4 decision was not swayed by the expected swing vote of Justice Kennedy, but instead by the Chief Justice himself John Roberts. This is notable as typically Chief Justices do not put themselves out there as the swing vote.
What can be described as a massive victory for the Obama Administration comes with a gigantic asterisk. While the law was mostly upheld, the individual mandate was not upheld under the Commerce Clause (Congressional power to regulate commerce between the states) upon which the case was originally made, but instead as being within the power of the Congress to tax. The court stated:
…it is abundantly clear the Constitution does not guarantee that individuals may avoid taxation through inactivity. A capitation, after all, is a tax that everyone must pay simply for existing, and capitations are expressly contemplated by the Constitution. 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. But from its creation, the Constitution has made no such promise with respect to taxes.
While having no immediate effect on the law, as SCOTUS ruled in favor, this distinction does have the future effect of making the path to overturning easier in theory. Only requiring 51 votes in the Senate to end a tax, a Republican hold of the House, capturing of the Senate, and victory by Mr. Romney in the fall would put ACA right back in the spotlight – and probably straight for the firing squad. A victory by Mr. Obama in November and/or a Democratic hold of the Senate would effectively shelve any talk of icing this law until 2014 at the earliest – in the event of a hold by Mr. Obama probably not until 2016.
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Albert Florence & his attorney Susan Chana Lask. Mr. Florence lost an appeal to the supreme court arguing his 4th Amendment rights were being violated over two forced strip searches relating to a traffic stop for an unpaid ticket.
In another controversial 5 – 4 ruling by perhaps one of the most conservative Supreme Courts in modern history, it was decided that anyone picked up by the police and taken to jail for a booking could undergo an invasive strip search for any reason deemed necessary by the local authorities – regardless if the original offence was of a violent nature or not.
The case was brought forth by New Jersey resident Albert Florence, who is the unfortunate victim of some bad paperwork. At the beginning of the last decade, Mr. Florence was charged a fine for fleeing a traffic stop. He paid the fine in full, but that was never quite documented correctly by the state of New Jersey. Having his plates ran and being subjected to multiple traffic stops since, Mr. Florence carried documentation on his person indicating that the fine was paid in full. This did not help him in a March 2005 traffic stop. Mr. Florence was pulled over again and whisked away to jail, leaving his pregnant wife and four-year-old daughter behind with the vehicle. The official documentation meant nothing to the state trooper.
Mr. Florence was taken to the county jail in Burlington County, where he was strip searched. He was held without charge for the next six days before being transferred to another jail in the city of Newark, where he was strip searched again. After another day without charge, a judge released him.
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The Supreme Court of the United States will hear arguments for and against the 2010 health care reform bill, rendering a decision on parts or the entire law by the end of June.
The final test for the Obama Administration’s bid for healthcare reform is finally upon us. After passing the House by a narrow 219 – 212 margin, the Senate by a filibuster-proof 60 – 39, and signed into law by President Obama on 23 March 2010, a legal challenge is the last thing standing in the way of the law being fully implemented over the remainder of this decade.
The fog in the media surrounding this case is extremely thick, with hang-wringing opponents of the bill making this out to be an apocalyptic showdown between the forces of free market capitalism and a Stalinist dictatorship, “death panels” and all. If you can get past that, you’ll find that over the next three days the Supreme Court of the United States will spend the most time deliberating on a case that they have for decades, and are expected to reach a decision in June that could have far reaching impacts on the implementation of the law, the continued existence of the law, future budget deficits over the decade to come, the political capital of the Obama Administration heading into the full campaign swing, and potentially the outcome of the 2012 elections. With all of this in mind, it is surely one of the most important decisions that the Supreme Court will have handed down in our lifetimes.
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