Saturday, March 3, 2012

That Supreme Court Case Explained

Or its a good thing I am not a lawyer... I find this very complicated. You know that Supreme Court case where they are going to hear six whole hours of arguments on the new health care law and then make a ground breaking decision. If you read the article it is a brief summary of something that is very complicated and citing laws going back over 130 years and deciding if it is a tax or not.  The two contended issues are mandating Americans to purchase health insurance and opening Medicaid to more people.

The Supreme Court gets to decide:
  • If this is a tax and if it is a tax it can't be disputed until after it has been in effect so the whole thing would be put off until 2014 or later.
  • Then if it is not a tax, then is it legal for Congress to require people to pay for insurance or pay a penalty and it might be an intrusion on individual liberty.
  • Next if it is unconstitutional can this requirement be split from the rest of the whole health care reform act. 
  • Finally they get to decide if the Medicaid expansion is unconstitutional or not.

I find it pretty amazing that this can be settled after only six hours of arguments and then the Supreme Court justices get to go think, talk over coffee, play basketball, or whatever it is they do and a decision will be announced and life will go on. Until another big issue is brought to the Supreme Court.

I once visited the Supreme Court. I worked for a legal non profit which was part of ACLEA, a legal education organization. They had their annual conference in Washington DC and we got a special tour by someone important at the Supreme Court, but not by a justice. I learned all sorts of fun things about the Supreme Court.
  • They didn't have a court house until the 1930s. They bounced around different places in Washington DC.
  • The newest member of the Supreme Court gets to be the secretary and take notes for the rest of them. If you think about it - it can be 20 years or more between each new justice and that's a lot of note taking. (So next time one is sworn in, listen for a big sigh of relief from Washington.)
  • There is a higher court that the Supreme Court. There is a basketball court upstairs. (See wikipedia for proof I'm not making this up and check the notes on the fifth floor.)
But I digress. This is a big case, which is why it gets six hours instead of a lot less, so we should all pay attention to its outcome.

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