The Supreme Court's Conservatives Are Mad as Hell at Chief Justice Roberts


Jan Crawford, the respected CBS legal correspondent who first reported that Chief Justice John Roberts switched his vote in the ObamaCare case, has a new story out with more comments sourced to individuals who appear to have direct knowledge of the Supreme Court's internal debates. And as she reports, the four dissenting justices in the case are mad as hell at Roberts for his actions:

If Roberts had been with the liberals from the beginning, sources tell me that would have been one thing; but switching his position—and relatively late in the process—infuriated the conservatives.

Of course it's unclear why he switched. He may have been focused solely on the law. But that is not what some of his colleagues believe.

Roberts initially sided with the four conservatives to strike down the heart of the health care law—the individual mandate, the requirement that all Americans buy insurance or pay a penalty.

When he changed his mind and joined with the liberals to uphold the law instead, he tried furiously—with a fair amount of "arm twisting"—to get Justice Anthony Kennedy to come along. Kennedy sometimes breaks with conservatives, so Roberts likely saw him as his best hope.

But on this issue of federal power, Kennedy was firm. The conservatives refused to even engage with Roberts on joining his opinion to uphold the law. They set out writing their own opinion—they wrote it to look like a majority decision, according to sources, because they hoped Roberts would rejoin them to strike down the mandate. Kennedy relentlessly lobbied Roberts until the end to come back. Of course he did not, and the conservatives' decision became a dissent.

Crawford's story also notably contradicts the recent report at Salon which claimed that Roberts wrote both the majority and the bulk of the dissent in the case.

Read Reason's ongoing ObamaCare coverage here.