Why Roberts saved Obama's law
By Joan Biskupic ,ReutersDefying History
June 30, 2012, 12:15 am TWN
As the lone conservative standing with four liberals, Roberts defied recent history, most people's expectations, and the deepest held hopes of the right-wing and tea party opponents of the law. He also rejected the prevailing view of Republican politicians, who had been his strongest backers when President George W. Bush nominated him five years ago.
“The court avoided, despite an enormous amount of pressure to invalidate this law, staining itself as excessively partisan,” said Bradley Joondeph, a law professor at Santa Clara University. “Think of the people who supported Chief Justice Roberts, who put him on the court, who were rooting for him.”
On the Roberts court, the swing-vote role has often been played by Justice Anthony Kennedy, not the chief himself. For example, Kennedy, a conservative appointed to the court by President Ronald Reagan in 1988, was crucial to its 1992 decision to uphold the right to abortion. Thursday's case marked the first time that Roberts joined the liberal bloc as the deciding fifth vote in a major case.
On Thursday, Kennedy fell in with the conservatives and read their joint dissent. In it, he took a swipe at Roberts' claim that the court was acting cautiously. “The court regards its strained statutory interpretation as judicial modesty,” Kennedy wrote. “It is not. It amounts instead to a vast judicial overreaching.”