Tags: high | court | obamacare | ruling

High Court Most Likely Has Decision on Obamacare

Friday, 30 Mar 2012 12:45 PM

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The Supreme Court has most likely already decided the fate of Obamacare, they’re just not telling anyone. Typically, the nine justices meet in private the Friday following oral arguments and vote on the fate of the case in question and issue their formal ruling months later, The Washington Post reported.

The process is the same for all cases. The justices gather in their private conference room at the court and Chief Justice John Roberts speaks first, laying out the case and then announcing his vote. The other justices follow suit by seniority, with the most junior justice, in this case, Elena Kagan, going last, the Post reported.

“In that room, when we discuss First Amendment, abortion, Second Amendment, death penalty, preemption, commerce clause, the cases of great consequence — Bush v. Gore — I still have yet to hear the first unkind word,” Justice Clarence Thomas said in a speech last year according to the Post.

Kagan is also tasked with taking notes and answering the door should someone knock. There are no secretaries or law clerks in the room, just the nine members of the court. If Chief Justice Roberts is in the majority he will either write the opinion himself or assign it to another justice. If he is not in the majority, the justice with the most seniority will write or assign the case.

At the end of the day, the justices and their law clerks will know the outcome but it will not leak as is often the case in the other two branches of government.

“It’s only a small number of people who know, and they just don’t leak,” Orin Kerr, a law professor at George Washington University and a former clerk to Justice Anthony Kennedy told the Post. “I mean, you’re sworn to secrecy.”

The court will not announce when the decision is to be issued, but a case of this importance and complexity will most likely be one of the last of the term that ends in June. Justices can change their mind after the initial vote as draft opinions of the court’s ruling circulate among the members of the court.

“There are a fair number of cases in which some justices disagree with the majority at the conference after oral argument but ultimately are persuaded to join its opinion,” retired justice John Paul Stevens wrote in his recent book “Five Chiefs,” according to the Post.


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