Saturday, June 30, 2012

Shameless Partisans on Obamacare, Arizona Immigration Laws, Juvenile Life Sentences, and Campaign Finance

[I am drained from the last few days of live commentary and interviews. Oh sure I enjoyed it all, but I'm mentally exhausted. So....]
In lieu of a full blown post about the Obamacare decision--and a few other biggies rendered this past week--I'm going to rely on some interviews I've done.

Readers may find that a welcome break. Especially after wading through 193 pages of the Supreme Court's Obamacare opinions! Oh, you didn't?

But a few short comments before the interview links. [Go straight to the links below if you just can't bear to read any more commentary.]

There were several very important decisions handed down this past Monday and Thursday, the last 2 days of the 2011-12 term. I will let the interviews do most of the talking. But first a recap in terms of what we've been examining in the series on the Supreme Court's partisanship.

On Monday, the Court invalidated life sentences, imposed automatically without parole, for crimes committed by juveniles.
The voting line-up?
The 4 liberal Democratic Justices (Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan) were, of course, against such "cruel and unusual" sentences.
The 4 conservative Republican Justices (Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, and Alito) were, of course, in favor of them.
Kennedy sided with the libs on that one.

The Court also invalidated Montana's 100 year old law limiting corporate campaign spending.
You know how it went: the 4 lib-Dems favored Montana's spending restrictions, and the 4 con-Repubs didn't and reaffirmed Citizens United.
Kennedy joined the conservatives on this one.

The Court also invalidated most of Arizona's immigration law. [It did unanimously uphold 1 provision on narrow grounds, warning that it better not be enforced in a racially/ethnically discriminatory manner.]
All 3 lib-Dems who voted [Kagan took no part.] agreed that most of the law should be thrown out.
Of the con-Repubs, 3 wanted all or most of the law saved.
Kennedy went with the libs.
Roberts, perhaps in a preview of the Obamacare decision, also joined the libs to give them a 5 Justice majority.

As for the decision upholding Obamacare decision:
All 4 lib-Dems voted (surprise, surprise) for Obamacare.
3 of the con-Repubs voted (again, surprise, surprise) against it.
Kennedy voted with the conservatives.
Roberts--as the entire world now knows--voted with the libs to make the 5 Justice majority.

As momentous as that 5-4 decision was as a matter of politics, governance, and social welfare, there was another 5-4 holding--in the very same decision--that was equally momentous as a matter of constitutional law. That was the 5-4 decision against the federal government's interstate commerce power.

Yes, that's the broad federal regulatory power that was used early in the Republic to create a nation out of separate sovereign states, used in the New Deal to authorize countless social welfare and economic laws that we take for granted today (e.g., health and safety regulations, labor laws, social security, etc., etc., etc.), and used in the civil rights era to outlaw racial discrimination and, later, discrimination based on sex, age, etc. The power to regulate commerce across state lines.

It was the same regulatory power that recently was used by the federal government to outlaw an individual's growing a small amount of marijuana for strictly personal medicinal purposes. Of course, not surprisingly, Scalia and the other con-Repubs just loved the federal commerce power in that case.

But in the Obamacare decision, the Court, by a 5-4 vote, said the commerce power did not give the federal government the authority to enact the individual mandate. [It was a different 5-4 majority that held that the taxing power let the federal government do that.]

This is extremely significant because the regulatory commerce power has been the broadest and deepest well of federal government power. This 5-4 holding was a very rare decision to deny and restrict that power. It was a landmark departure from the Court's past decisions, and it establishes a new precedent that may well have a profound impact on constitutional law.

Now, who voted against the federal commerce power in the Obamacare decision? All 4 con-Repubs did--Roberts [Yes, Roberts!], Scalia, Thomas, and Alito.
Who voted for the federal commerce power? All 4 lib-Dems--Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan.

Yep, that's a perfect--as in perfectly shameless, or shameful--partisan split!
The exact same shift we would expect from partisan politicians--partisan Democrats versus partisan Republicans.
And Kennedy voted with the conservatives on that one to give them a majority to limit federal regulatory power.

OK, enough. Let's get to the interviews.

On the Court's Arizona Immigration Law decision, as well as a preview and prediction on the Obamacare decision:
TV Interview. YNN, Capital Tonight with Liz Benjamin, Monday June 25, 2012.
Bonventre on SCOTUS Decisions

Radio Interview. NPR/KPCC Los Angeles, Patt Morrison Show, Wednesday June 27, 2012.
The Roberts Court Partisan?  at 6:00 min into show.

On the Obamacare Decision and Chief Justice Roberts' Deciding Vote:
TV Interview. YNN, Thursday June 28, 2012.
Law Professor Weighs in on Healthcare Ruling

Radio Interview. NPR/KPCC Los Angeles, Patt Morrison Show, Thursday June 28, 2012.
What Does Today's Ruling Mean?

Added July 2, 2012
For Court junkies--or New York Court Watcher junkies [I hope there's a few]--here's an interview from back in March.
On the Obamacare case, the First Day of Oral Arguments at the Court
TV Interview. YNN, Capital Tonight with Liz Benjamin, Monday March 26, 2012.
"Albany Law’s Bonventre Talks Supreme Court and Obamacare” [video]

In the next post, we'll get to Part 12: more of A Court of Shameless Partisans.