Gerard N. Magliocca: Chief Justice Roberts and the Rule of Law

Roundup: Historians' Take

Gerard N. Magliocca is the Samuel R. Rosen Professor at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law.

...Chief Justice Marshall famously found a way out of tough spot in 1803 by reading the Judiciary Act of 1789 in a peculiar way to deny William Marbury a remedy.  Following the law would have brought the Court into a terrible (and destructive) clash with President Jefferson. He lectured the President about not giving Marbury his commission, but did nothing to help....

Chief Justice Roberts did something similar today. Following the law and reading the Affordable Care Act in the most natural way (failing to buy health insurance leads to a penalty, not a tax) would have forced him to strike down the individual mandate.  So he didn't do that.  Why? Because a 5-4 straight-line party decision invalidating part or all of the Act would have have brought the Court into a terrible clash with President Obama.  The Chief Justice gave a pretty speech about federalism, but ultimately he did nothing about it.  (Maybe I'm underestimating the importance of the Medicaid issue--I'm not sure.)...

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