My list of reasons to put myself in situations that could require all-nighters or sleeping on concrete is pretty short. I added “seeing historical Supreme Court cases being argued” to it back in March, but I figured that was the end of that sort of adventure for the near future. As amazing as being at the Court is, the ten hours spent in sub-freezing temperatures, the lack of sleep, and the wide variety of cases the Supreme Court takes (we each have our interests, and cases involving banking are not included in my interests) are still pretty big deterrents from doing this on a regular basis.
Being the policy/politics nerd that I am, I had already spent time discussing my optimistic predictions (uphold, Roberts writing the opinion, with Kennedy, Breyer, Sotomayor, Kagan, and Ginsberg joining), when the case would be decided (on the last day SCOTUS was meeting, which meant either this Monday, or later in the week, because Monday had its own exciting cases ["show your papers" section of the controversial Arizona immigration law upheld, Citizens United essentially affirmed because the Montana challenge wasn't going to be heard, no life in prison without parole sentences for juveniles]), and the effects on the presidential campaign (hello attack ads galore). But I didn’t really consider going, until early this week, when I noticed that there weren’t any articles or mentions of lines to view Monday’s decisions.
Monday was seen as a potential decision day for healthcare, and although it wasn’t the actual decision day, it seemed to be the trial run for procedures on a day when a major decision like this would be released. But there weren’t articles about lines. In March, there was coverage of the lines, the people who’d spent days there, and how many people were let in each day. But that wasn’t present here, so I started getting interested in going.
And long story short, I went. Here’s my adventure through pictures!
This part is where you use your imagination. The Supreme Court itself does not allow any electronics, so no pictures inside here!
Brief recap: There are still several other cases besides healthcare, and of course they start with those other cases. Luckily, they aren’t as exciting or complex (although I was proud of myself for following the First Amendment arguments in the Stolen Valor Act discussion), and Chief Justice Roberts began the announcement at 10:05. The fact that Roberts was writing the opinion wasn’t a huge surprise. The CJ gets to claim or assign opinions, and it’s only natural that he would want it in a case this big and defining for his court. The only surprise was which was this opinion would go. He certainly didn’t make it easy for people to figure out. Although his discussion was clearly laid out, his tone and language seemed to indicate that he (and the majority) would strike it down. After announcing that the individual mandate was not constitutional under the commerce clause, a lot of people (and by people I also mean CNN and Fox News!) thought that the entire law had been struck down.
BUT THEY WERE WRONG. Roberts and the majority held that this was an allowable exercise of federal power under Congress’ ability to tax, aka INDIVIDUAL MANDATE UPHELD (it’s still exciting, and fully deserve capslock). They also held that the Medicare expansion plan as written was unconstitutional, but the opinion was written in a way that makes other plans acceptable.
All in all, a solid day at the SCOTUS.
The other fun thing to do at the Court is people-watch. It’s a good place to see big names in the legal world/political world, and we ended up sitting two rows (about five feet) from Michele Bachmann, who left hurriedly after Roberts announced that the mandate was upheld. When we exited the building we found her again, in the middle of the happy crowds/protesters/counter-protesters.