On CBS’s “Face The Nation” on Sunday, CBS reporter Jan Crawford said sources from within the Supreme Court told her that Chief Justice John Roberts changed his mind on the Obamacare case last month and withstood a month-long campaign, led by Justice Anthony Kennedy, to bring him back to his original decision.
Crawford’s reporting confirms the conclusions many came to after reading the whole opinion. In the opinion, the dissenting opinion referred to the “Ginsburg dissent” when Ginsburg was in the majority and the concurrence and dissent did not engage with Roberts’ opinion, which would be standard operating procedure in such a seminal and contentious case such as this. This led many to believe that Roberts changed his mind.
In May of 2012, the Obama administration sent a letter to the Supreme Court warning the Court that, essentially, “if Obamacare is struck down, there will be an ‘extraordinary disruption’ in Medicare.” Throughout the month of May, Obama, the mainstream media, and liberal elites like the liberal Harvard Constitutional Law Professor Laurence Tribe, who taught Roberts and was one of Obama’s earliest supporters among the liberal elite, launched an offensive against the Court’s integrity in attacks that now seemed to have been directly targeted at Roberts.
Roberts could have been bullied, wanted to be liked by the intellectual establishment, or took seriously the false concerns about the Court’s potential loss of legitimacy by, according to conservative legal scholar John Yoo, writing an opinion that “provides a constitutional road map for architects of the next great expansion of the welfare state.”
If Roberts was swayed by public pressure, though, it may have been far more damaging to the Court in the long run, something Roberts presumably considered in his reported reversal last month. As the Wall Street Journal noted in an opinion piece:
But if it is true, this is far more damaging to the Court's institutional integrity that the Chief Justice is known to revere than any ruling against ObamaCare. The political class and legal left conducted an extraordinary campaign to define such a decision as partisan and illegitimate. If the Chief Justice capitulated to this pressure, it shows the Court can be intimidated and swayed from its constitutional duties.