Does The Supreme Court Rely On One Man’s Decision?
On April 25, 2012, 1:06 PM by Benjamin Siegel
After a string of 5-4 decisions, will the Supreme Court’s ruling on Obamacare prove the President’s assertion of judicial activism correct?
The fate of President Obama’s crowning achievement of his first term — the passing of the healthcare reform law — seemingly rests on the shoulders of one Supreme Court Justice. After repeated 5-4 rulings decided recent cases, what initially seemed to be mere suspicions of a court neatly divided along party lines has become something of a known fact. Divided between four staunchly conservative and four staunchly liberal justices, Anthony Kennedy has become the one and only swing vote on the Supreme Court.
Dialogue-shifting decisions that have painted a picture of a bench divided along liberal/conservative lines include 2010’s Berghuis v. Thompkins ruling, in which the court essentially ruled to loosen an arrested citizen’s Miranda rights. That same year, the Supreme Court ruled on Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, where they determined that political spending is protected under the First Amendment. This year brought the decision on Florence v. Burlington County, in which the court ruled that police may strip search anyone arrested for any offense, even if there is no reason to suspect contraband.
In each of the above Supreme Court decisions, Justice Anthony Kennedy was the deciding factor. Siding with the conservative wing of the court (Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Chief Justice John Roberts), Kennedy was able to swing cases with significant impact on how the Constitution is interpreted and enforced.
Meanwhile, the liberal wing of the court (Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan) has failed more often than not in convincing Kennedy to join their side while court watchers have accepted that Kennedy is once again going to be the 5th vote on Obamacare. This prompted a show of preventative action by President Oama when he recently claimed the potential overturning of his healthcare law would be nothing more than judicial activism. Decrying such a ruling as “unprecedented,” President Obama said he was confident that the court would not overturn what is an act that passed through the democratic process of Congress.
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