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John Roberts' Switch On Obamacare Sparks Fascination With Supreme Court, Possible Leaks

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Chief Justice John Roberts
Chief Justice John Roberts

WASHINGTON -- Since the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a ruling to uphold the heart of President Barack Obama’s health care law, the media’s fascination with Chief Justice John Roberts' decision to side with the majority and uphold the mandate as a tax has reached a fever pitch.

Now, Jan Crawford’s CBS report that Roberts changed his opinion on the Affordable Care Act -- going from agreeing with the court’s conservative justices to siding with its liberal faction -- has sparked a new wave of analysis. It's focused not just on his decision, but on who would leak information around the inner workings of a court typically cloaked in secrecy.

Crawford decidedly states that the reason behind Roberts' switch remains unknown. But TPM points out that observers "flatly reject the idea that Roberts buckled to liberal pressure, or was stared down by the president. They instead believe that Roberts realized the historical consequences of a ruling striking down the landmark health-care law. There was no doctrinal background for the court to fall back on -- nothing in prior Supreme Court cases -- to say the individual mandate crossed a constitutional line."

Furthermore, Roberts foreshadowed his belief that the individual mandate could be upheld on a constitutional basis during oral arguments in March.

Below is some of the speculation around the web on the Supreme Court’s leak and Roberts’ change of heart:

Supreme Court Springs A Leak; Leaks To Conservative Pundits May Have Started More Than A Month Ago -- ThinkProgress: "Crawford cites two unnamed sources, and there are a very limited universe of people who could have revealed this information to her. Only the justices and their personal staff would have access to this knowledge, and it is highly unlikely that a clerk or secretary would be willing to risk their entire career by revealing the Court’s confidential deliberations to the press."

Did the Supreme Court’s Deliberations on Healthcare Leak? -- The Volokh Conspiracy: "I’d like to be wrong. A leak about Court deliberations, especially a leak that went only to one side in a pending case, would truly be a scandal...And there are certainly other explanations. After all, every Supreme Court watcher, in the Administration and out, was probably collecting stories about the Justices’ body language when healthcare came up at cocktail parties and dinners with friends."

When the Supreme Court Leaks -- Felix Salmon, Reuters: "We’re now seeing these coordinated and perfectly-timed leaks from within the Court, detailing information known only to the justices themselves. The conservative justices are leaking, and although Crawford talks about “law clerks, chambers’ aides and secretaries” who have been gossiping internally about Roberts’s change of mind, it’s pretty clear that her sources were impeccable and that if they weren’t the conservative justices themselves, they were sources who had the explicit consent of those justices to start talking to the press."

Well, Maybe the Supreme Court Leaks, After All -- Wall Street Journal: "Maybe a big law firm with an appellate practice would shun a Supreme Court clerk caught leaking the behind-the-scenes story of an important decision, but would academia, activist organizations, partisan think tanks, or the media? I doubt it."

Roberts' Switch on Health Care Signals a Leaky Supreme Court -- ABC News: "In the third and least covered branch of government, secrecy is a hallmark. Supreme Court justices rarely explain how they arrive at their votes, and when they do, it's usually long after they've left the bench, or even in papers released after they've died. In the case of the Roberts court, that precedent might be broken."

John Roberts, Conservative Outcast, and the Supreme Court’s Unprecedented Leak -- Time: "I claim no inside knowledge whatsoever of the court or this story, but all leaks happen for the same reason ... In this case, it looks as if conservative members of the court felt the need to explain publicly why the decision went against them, defend their efforts to prevent the outcome and vent a little spleen."

A Justice in Chief -- The New York Times: "I wondered at the time whether they had picked up signals that the chief justice, thought reliable after the oral argument two months earlier, was now wavering, and whether their message was really intended for him."

Welcome to the Roberts Court: How the Chief Justice Used Obamacare to Reveal His True Identity -- The New Republic: "For bringing the Court back from the partisan abyss, Roberts deserves praise not only from liberals but from all Americans who believe that it’s important for the Court to stand for something larger than politics."
Why Roberts Did It: "Jurisprudentially, he is a constitutional conservative. Institutionally, he is chief justice and sees himself as uniquely entrusted with the custodianship of the Court’s legitimacy, reputation, and stature."

Also on The Huffington Post

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Around the Web

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