Thursday, April 15, 2010

Justice Breyer Expects Many Cases From a Law of 2400 Pages

Justice Breyer, a liberal-leaning Clinton appointee to the Supreme Court weighs in on the potential for the Supreme Court to weigh in on health care. Both Breyer and Justice Clarence Thomas testified before a Congressional budget hearing yesterday prompting a discussion on what the court looks for in a new member. When questioned on their apparent light case load Breyer anticipated that would change in the near future:
"Now you, I gather, have passed a law with 2,400 pages," he told panel members, referring to the health care bill. "If you had passed a law with 2,400 pages it probably has a lot of words. And I would predict as a test of the theory that three or four years today no one is every going to ask us again why we have so few cases."

Breyer had been asked why the Supreme Court's caselaod had been relatively light in recent years. The 71-year-old justice explained his colleagues usually only accepts cases where lower courts have disagreed over a particular issue, giving the Supreme Court a chance to offer the final word. A Democratic White House and Congress promoting and passing laws may now have a greater chance of being overturned in coming years by federal courts that have a majority of Republican appointees. Six of the nine current justices on the Supreme Court were named by GOP presidents.

In that vein, Breyer offered a humorous "reality check" on court challenges, citing the example used by the renowned French writer Michel de Montaigne in 1584.

"This king, he wrote, was so stupid he thought by writing a lot of laws he was going to reduce the number of lawyers because he's explained everything," said Breyer. "Doesn't the king know every word in a bill is the subject for an argument in court in a decision?"
Well we know one king and a number of his minions knew few if any of the words in a 2400 page law.  The Montaigne quote is the highlight for me though clearly the news is he expects health care to give them quite a bit of business in the next few years.  More on Michel de Montaigne here.  Here is a video clip of the relevant portion of Justice Breyers statement for context.

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