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Health care, Valor Act rulings expected from Supreme Court
Decision day has finally arrived.
At 10 a.m., the U.S. Supreme Court convenes to hand down its final opinions of the 2011-2012 term. The justices will take the bench and then announce the rulings in the three remaining cases. One is an obscure but constitutionally significant real estate dispute. The other involves a challenge to the Stolen Valor Act, a federal law that makes it a crime for someone to falsely claim they won a military medal for bravery.
On any other day, this classic tension between unpopular speech and patriotic impulses would be the marquee case on scope of the First Amendment. Today, it will just prolong the agony until Chief Justice John Roberts says the court will address the cluster of cases about the Affordable Health Care Act. It’s known as National Federation of Independent Business v. Katherine Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services.
So, between 10:15 and 10:30, there should be white smoke. Minutes later, when the documents are released in the press room downstairs and online, we should know the result.
Or will we?
If the last few weeks are any guide, the first hours of reporting and commentary will be breathless -- and possibly inaccurate. There are extremely complex legal, political and ideological issues coming into play. And it is quite possible, as the court has done before, most notoriously in its rulings on affirmative action in higher education, that it will be hard to tell, very quickly, what was decided.
With several key points to address, the court could go 5-4 on one, 6-3 on another and then shift to 7-2 on a third. These are called plurality opinions and generate vast pages of individual views as most of the justices put in their two cents about why they disagree with their brethren.
These are a nightmare for even the experts to digest and understand. In that case, look for #whatamess on Twitter.
Or, Chief Justice John Roberts could immortalize himself as a master jurist and deliver a fluid, comprehensive and well-reasoned majority opinion that makes clear to the nation how precedent, the Constitution and their view of what is best for the nation shaped the result.
So be prepared, it may take a while to find out who won or lost today.