Traverse City Record-Eagle

Other Views

June 30, 2012

Another View: Court full of surprises

II — 'Life," according to the mother of that noted, if fictional, philosopher Forrest Gump, "is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get." Presidents who appoint justices to the Supreme Court would be wise to remember those words.

In 1952, when Dwight Eisenhower chose three-term California Gov. Earl Warren — a proponent of interning Japanese citizens during World Waras Chief Justice of the United States, Eisenhower didn't know what he was going to get.

He got a Supreme Court that banned the segregation of public schools, required that people must be read their rights while in police custody, and instituted "one man, one vote" rulings that forced many state legislatures to reapportion their districts more fairly.

Eisenhower called Warren's appointment "the biggest damned-fool mistake I ever made."

History, however, has been far more generous in its evaluation of the Warren court.

We suspect ... history will be similarly kind to the John Roberts court after the conservative chief justice appointed by President George W. Bush in 2005 joined four liberal justices Thursday in upholding President Barack Obama's health care law.

Obamacare, as The Affordable Health Care Act has come to be known, will remain the law of the land, much to the consternation of Republicans ...

We applaud the ruling, and in particular, we applaud Roberts for putting his judicial ethics ahead of a political agenda. While a senator, Obama voted against Roberts' confirmation.

Also, Roberts had expressed disappointment after Obama called out the Supreme Court in his 2010 State of the Union address for its Citizens United campaign finance ruling.

It took strong character for Roberts to set aside politics and affirm what he said during his confirmation hearing about the role of a judge.

"(I)t's my job to call balls and strikes," he said, "and not to pitch or bat."

Rather than look for a reason to damage Obama's re-election prospects, Roberts searched for a way to uphold the law.

He found it, not in the Commerce Clause of the Constitution as advocated by supporters of the law, but in the federal government's right to regulate and impose taxes.

In his majority opinion ... Roberts cited a Nov. 13, 1789 letter "from Benjamin Franklin to M. Le Roy: 'Our new Constitution is now established ... but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.'" ...

Daily Star Oneonta, N.Y.

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