Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg predicts that the Court would be sharply divided over a series of high profile cases due by the end of the month, including the case over the constitutionality of health care reform, reports CNN. In a speech at the American Constitution Society Friday evening, Ginsburg talked about the high-stakes term as “taxing” but also made light of the situation with jokes.
“The term has been more than usually taxing, some have called it the term of the century,” Ginsburg said. In the next few weeks, the court must decide around 15 cases, including the high profile cases over health care and Arizona’s controversial immigration law. Ginsburg called it “flood season.”
“As one may expect, many of the most controversial cases remain pending,” she said. “So it is likely that the sharp disagreement rate will go up next week and the week after.”
Ginsburg cracked a joke about the health care case and the individual mandate. “If the individual mandate, requiring the purchase of insurance or the payment of a penalty, if that is unconstitutional, must the entire act fall?” she said, then offering up the alternative to throwing out the whole law because of the mandate. “Or, may the mandate be chopped, like a head of broccoli, from the rest of the act?”
The reference to broccoli was a jab at critics of the individual mandate, prompting laughter from the liberal-leaning audience. The issue of “severability,” whether or not the rest of the law can stand if the mandate is struck down, is one of many questions the Court will rule on in the health care case. Critics have argued that the mandate would create a slippery slope, ultimately allowing the government to require Americans buy broccoli in the name of public health.
Ginsburg also spent time talking about the importance of dissents, causing Court-watchers to perk up. “I have spoken on more than one occasion about the utility of dissenting opinions, noting in particular that they can reach audiences outside the court and can propel legislative or executive change,” Ginsburg said.
Pema Levy is a News Writer at TPM covering the 2012 election. Before coming to TPM, Pema was an assistant editor at The American Prospect where she wrote about politics and the economy.