If you followed the national news last week you know that President Obama’s health care law (Obamacare as it is often quipped) was a front and center issue. Long story short, the U.S. Supreme Court held hearings last week to help decide what to do with certain portions of the health care law. Portions that may in fact be unconstitutional. Taking it a step further, if these areas are indeed found to be unconstitutional, and consequently unenforceable, what do we do with the rest of the enormous health care law? There is a strong sentiment by many, including (it appears) some of the justices on the Supreme Court, that such a decision will gut the rest of the law and therefore the entire health care law must be stricken.
A decision is scheduled to come down in June.
As you know, attorneys are bound by ethical rules. These ethical rules cover virtually every area of the practice of law, even comments that an attorney may or may not make to the media during a trial, or maybe in the days leading up to a trial. In fact, before they are selected to sit on a particular trial, potential jurors are often questioned if they have read, seen, or heard anything about the case in the media. This is an effort to provide the parties with as unbiased a jury as possible. The people deciding the case should not be influenced by, for example, statements made by one party to the media. The reasons are obvious: the statements might be false; might be intended for jurors to hear; might not be in context; etc.
Which brings me to President Obama’s comments on the Supreme Court’s deliberations last week and into this week. (click here for NY Times article on he subject) President Obama not only addressed the issue publicly, he even sent what many news agencies have categorized as a warning to the U.S. Supreme Court. He made such comments as to indicate that the high court would be acting without “judicial restraint” and participating in judicial activism if they struck down his law. In fact, the NY Times (Mark Lander) stated “Mr. Obama offered both a robust defense of the law and a barbed warning to justices thinking of striking it down.”
He even referred to the justices as an “unelected group of people” and how could they “overturn a duly constituted and passed law.” Well Mr. President, the U.S. Supreme Court makes these kinds of decisions, and strikes down such passed laws, all the time. That is part of the court’s purview and charge.
He then went on to make it very clear that the court would be hurting millions of Americans if they strike down the health care law.
I find it highly inappropriate, and desperate for that matter, for a sitting president to make such public comments that are clearly designed to influence the court’s decision. If the president wanted to defend his health care law then he should have requested permission to be on the agenda and then marched himself over there last week to be grilled by the justices just like the other lawyers. But I suspect he didn’t want to do that. He would rather take pot shots at the court from the outside. Knowing full well that the justices cannot, and will not, be able to make any response to what he says to the media.
Disappointing Mr. President. Disappointing.