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Justices Follow Tradition With Health Care Reform Vote

03/30/12

  04:24:32 pm, by MedBen5   , 334 words,  
Categories: News

Justices Follow Tradition With Health Care Reform Vote

In a city where secrets have a short shelf life, the Supreme Court takes every precaution to ensure that no one in Washington D.C. knows what’s being said behind the chamber door.

Today the nine justices are expected to determine the fate of the Affordable Care Act. And as in all Supreme Court hearings, they follow an established and rigid procedure. The Street website explains how it works:

“The justices will confer in a room by themselves – no one else is legally allowed to be present except for the nine men and women appointed by current and past presidents – seated in order of seniority as the chief justice heads the discussion…

“[E]ach justice, starting with the most senior (which is the Chief Justice), states an uninterrupted opinion about the arguments for the specific case. Each justice may speak only once to state his or her comments, which, once completed, concludes that justice’s opportunity to speak again.

“The next justice in seniority then confers his or her opinion about the case; that order repeats until the most junior – Kagan – completes her statements.

“Once all justices have stated a case, [Chief Justice] Roberts will then hold a vote for where they intend to side on a case. The “majority” opinion refers to the side that garners – at least in the Obamacare case – five votes, while the “dissenting” opinion is the minority.”

Even though the vote occurs today, only the justices will know the outcome until June. In the meantime, majority and dissenting opinions are written.

“The senior justice in the majority will then decide who writes the majority opinion, and, traditionally, the senior justice among the dissenters will decide who writes a primary dissenting opinion,” said Greg Magarian, a Washington University in St. Louis law professor who clerked for former Justice John Paul Stevens. “Although anybody can write a dissent, and anybody in the majority can write a separate concurrence explaining why they… partially agree and partially disagree.”

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