An Ideologically-Driven Court? Health Care Ruling, Business Cases Say Otherwise
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By now you’ve no doubt heard that the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the individual mandate of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as a constitutional “tax.”
The health care ruling may be the most anticipated Supreme Court decision in a generation. Certainly, the business community has been watching the case very closely; the Chamber’s reaction to the ruling is here (in a nutshell: the ruling doesn’t change the reality that the health care law is fundamentally flawed; and the law must be replaced).
For those tuning into the Court for the first time, however, the narrow 5-4 decision might give the misleading impression that the Supreme Court is often divisive. But narrow 5-4 rulings are the exception at the Court, not the norm.
The Supreme Court’s health care ruling, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, a conservative justice who joined the Court’s four liberal justices to uphold the law, also underscores that most cases of interest to the business community are not decided along ideological lines.
While we might agree or disagree with a particular decision, by and large, the justices themselves – from left to right – agree on how most business cases should be decided.
Indeed, today’s Wall Street Journal reports on an eye-opening analysis of the Court’s business decisions this term, confirming that the business decisions are not the product of ideology:
93% of the cases [of interest to the business community] were decided by majorities that cut across the usual ideological lines. Moreover, 18 of the cases (or 64%) were decided by lopsided majorities, in which there were fewer than two dissents. This latter category spanned cases on labor relations, free speech, telecom issues, broadcast regulations, securities litigation, patents, benefits and environmental rules. And of these, 13 were unanimous. The left tends to neglect these frequent moments of unity in its drive to portray the Roberts Court as radical and right-wing when it is neither.
The numbers highlighted by WSJ are a compelling rebuttal to the misleading, misinformed, and tired trope that the Court decides cases in a knee-jerk, ideological fashion.
But what explains the relative consensus on the Court in business cases? Once again, WSJ hits the nail on the head:
These percentages are not a one-year aberration, as they are roughly the same for the 34 cases of business interest that the Court decided in its 2010 term. The reason probably has less to do with any ideological predilections among the judges than with the fact that businesses are often forced to defend themselves in court against regulations and lawsuits that are patently illegal.
That sounds about right to us. The business community often finds itself playing defense in the courts against the never-ending onslaught of frivolous, lawyer-driven lawsuits, as well as imbalanced and unlawful regulations.
You can check out a list of cases of interest to the business community on the website of the National Chamber Litigation Center, the Chamber’s public policy law firm.