JEFF PEARLMAN

Coming October 2022: "The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson"

The (Genuinely) Supreme Court

Whatever one thinks of universal health care and the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold it, I think it’s important to note something extremely important that happened yesterday.

Namely, the Supreme Court acted supremely.

Wait. Hold up. I am not, by any means, referring to the decision to support the legality of universal health coverage. What I mean is that, at day’s end, a judge voted unpredictably. The weight of this cannot be understated.

I am far from a Supreme Court expert. I do know, however, that eight of the nine justices are as predictable as the Miami summer. John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Sam Alito always side with the conservative/pro-business position. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan always side with the liberal/anti-business position. Sure, there are minor moments of exception. But, 99 of 100 times, we pretty much know who’s voting for what. Anthony Kennedy, of course, is the one always in play. He is, to a large degree, the most important justice.

Here we were yesterday, however, with an absolute stunner. The swing voter toward the liberal position was not Kennedy, but Roberts—the Court’s chief justice and a man everyone who is everyone knows to be an arch-conservative. Until this vote, Roberts was abhorred by Democrats as an ally of all things corporate. He was the voice (and face, to a degree) of Citizens United, a decision that still makes my stomach spin. I loathed Roberts—not as a human, of course. But as a judge.

Bam!

I no longer loathe John Roberts. But, again, not because of the specifics of health care reform. I no longer loathe the man because, for the first time in decades, he has reinvigorated my belief that the Court can be—and (gasp!) may well be—bigger than partisan nonsense; that it is a place for justice, political affiliation be damned. Some might not believe this, but I long for the day that Sotomayor and Kagan side with a conservative issue; long for the day that Thomas (my least favorite member of the court, hands down) rules on the part of freedom of speech or against a corporate giant. I don’t want a liberal or conservative court. I want a court that stands for justice, and only justice.

Yesterday, a step was taken in the right direction.

In the righteous direction.