By Zack Needles
Of the Legal Staff
Duquesne School of Law Dean Ken Gormley said Thursday that the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling upholding President Obama’s health care reform legislation was one of the most important decisions to come from the high court since the days of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, when it was faced with federal legislation aimed at bringing the country out of the Great Depression.
“I think it will be viewed as a landmark decision and one of the most significant pieces of legislation to confront the Supreme Court in many years, largely because it’s creating a whole new legislative structure to deal with a giant issue in American society: health care,” he said.
According to Gormley, the ruling also contained its share of surprises, chief among them being the majority’s holding that the individual mandate violated the Commerce Clause, but survived as a tax. Gormley said he felt this was a “very creative way to handle a dicey issue.”
But while some may consider it surprising that Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., a noted conservative, penned the opinion on behalf of a majority that also included four justices widely regarded as liberals, Gormley said the essence of the ruling was very much in line with Roberts’ ideology.
As Roberts wrote in the opinion: “We do not consider whether the act embodies sound policies. That judgment is entrusted to the nation’s elected leaders. We ask only whether Congress has the power under the Constitution to enact the challenged provisions.”
“I think the end result of giving Congress deference in this area was perfectly consistent with Chief Justice Roberts’ judicial philosophy,” Gormley said.