March 27, 2012

The Supreme Court's Vanity Problem

There's something ironic about the fact that extra time was allotted for oral arguments in one of the most high-profile Supreme Court cases in years, given that there is nothing the Justices heard today that they haven't heard or read in three years of studying this legislation and the countless articles and columns written about it. The Justices don't live in a bubble where the only outside information the receive is divined through oral arguments. They read the newspaper. They watch TV. They probably listen to NPR. And knowing, from the day it was passed, that the fate of Obamacare would be decided in their court room, they've long had their minds made up about how they'll rule on it. So the notion that they need extra time to here lawyers justify their arguments, rather than less time, is patently ridiculous. The circus surrounding this case serves the purpose of making them feel important and serious. Most Supreme Court cases get very little attention, the occasional Citizens United notwithstanding, so the only other time the Justices appear at the top of the news cycle is at their confirmation hearings. The coverage of this case gives them a chance to have their egos stroked by obsequious SCOTUS correspondents who are just floored by Scalia's intellect.