Gonzales: Maybe Roberts will punt today

posted at 9:21 am on June 28, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

Could this morning’s big decision be the biggest let-down since Geraldo Rivera broke into Al Capone’s vault on national TV? The man who vetted John Roberts for the nomination to the Supreme Court told CNN yesterday that he expects the Chief Justice to decide the case on “the most narrow grounds possible,” which means Roberts may well urge the court to punt on ObamaCare for now … and put us all through this again in a few years after the mandate has taken effect:

Former Attorney General and former White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales said Wednesday Chief Justice John Roberts may try to avoid the constitutional issues in the fight over President Barack Obama’s health care law and vote to allow the individual mandate in the law to take effect before the courts issue a definitive ruling on it.

“I spent a great deal of time vetting Justice Roberts in making my recommendation to President [George W.] Bush that he appoint Chief Justice Roberts to the court,” Gonzales said on CNN. “One of the traits I most admired about him, and this is very consistent in his judicial decision making, is to decide decisions on the most narrow grounds possible, to not get to constitutional issues you don’t have to in order to dispose of a dispute….So in that respect, I expect Justice Roberts to follow that approach in deciding this case.” …

“That may mean, that he’s going to be pushing the court to perhaps not make a decision on this case, wait until 2015, when the penalties on individual mandate come into play….Perhaps the chief justice is not going to go that way, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he did,” the former attorney general and one-time Texas Supreme Court justice told CNN.

I don’t see this as a likely outcome, but it’s certainly possible.  The court held a two-hour round of arguments specifically on whether the case had “ripened” to the point where the Supreme Court should rule on the merits of the law.  That was widely seen as a hygienic move to pre-empt any notions of a “rush to judgment” if the law got tossed out, but it might be seen as an escape hatch at the moment.

A punt in the form of ruling that the case isn’t yet ripe for Supreme Court review would solve nothing for Roberts, though … unless he plans to retire in the next two or three years.  This case will not get forgotten by the states that filed the lawsuit, and the arguments will not have advanced much further, except to add more concrete examples of abuse of jurisdiction.  The HHS mandate would make a pretty good codicil, and that might come up next year if the court leaves ObamaCare standing, in whole or in part.  Finally, the time to punt this would have been at the certiorari stage when the court agreed to hear and consolidate the various challenges to the law.

Still, it’s a useful reminder that this option remains open to Roberts … and bear in mind Gabriel Malor’s analysis that shows the Roberts Court among the most cautious of modern panels.


Related Posts:

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

Absolutely no chance of this!

aunursa on June 28, 2012 at 9:24 AM

Do we really need this at 0 hour.

msupertas on June 28, 2012 at 9:24 AM

I hope we go back and revisit these predictions to see who was wrong and who was really wrong.

joekenha on June 28, 2012 at 9:25 AM

.=?

msupertas on June 28, 2012 at 9:25 AM

His other first choice for SCOTUS would certainly have punted.

Steve Eggleston on June 28, 2012 at 9:25 AM

Lord please help guide and protect the USA.

SayNo2-O on June 28, 2012 at 9:26 AM

“I spent a great deal of time vetting Justice Roberts in making my recommendation to President [George W.] Bush that he appoint Chief Justice Roberts to the court,” Gonzales said on CNN. “One of the traits I most admired about him, and this is very consistent in his judicial decision making, is to decide decisions on the most narrow grounds possible, to not get to constitutional issues you don’t have to in order to dispose of a dispute….So in that respect, I expect Justice Roberts to follow that approach in deciding this case.”

Gonzalez is such a putz.

Bitter Clinger on June 28, 2012 at 9:26 AM

Was Alberto, Judge Robert’s law professor too???

Eph on June 28, 2012 at 9:30 AM

The time to decide the ripeness question wouldn’t really be at the cert stage because a Circuit split had already formed on the mandate. Denying cert would leave that split in place, as opposed to taking up the question and then ruling that it wasn’t ripe or a decision with the anti-injunction act.

m2 on June 28, 2012 at 9:30 AM

His other first choice for SCOTUS would certainly have punted.

Steve Eggleston on June 28, 2012 at 9:25 AM

Eggcellent observation! Puts things in a much better perspective.
Thank you.

bettycooper on June 28, 2012 at 9:30 AM

Well maybe. Take one look at the leftist blogs and you realize those freaks are ready to burn down the entire nation over this, maybe the SCOTUS has recommended the National Guard be mobilized before announcing their ruling.

Bishop on June 28, 2012 at 9:30 AM

This is where nominating conservative, modest justices who repsect precedent work against the conservtive cause.

Republicans need to nominate radical ideologues who are activist and willing to smash the status quo to even have a chance of rollong back the progressive decisions of the last 4 decades.

rickyricardo on June 28, 2012 at 9:30 AM

No. Extraordinary amount of oral arguments, plus saving this for last points to a firm decision. The talking heads are getting quite silly right now.

About 45 minutes, people.

rbj on June 28, 2012 at 9:30 AM

What difference will it make in 2 or 3 years? He’s there specifically to rule on constitutional questions…it does no good to punt on it (plus, I’ll be pissed).

changer1701 on June 28, 2012 at 9:31 AM

I remember Gonzales. He and his boss did nothing about securing the border.

FAIL Alberto, FAIL.

PappyD61 on June 28, 2012 at 9:33 AM

I read it somewhere here that his middle name was Jose.
 
Uppereastside on June 25, 2012 at 7:01 PM

rogerb on June 28, 2012 at 9:34 AM

I’ve considered this, but wouldn’t it have been wiser to announce a punt weeks ago instead of delaying it til the last possible moment like this? It’s one thing for the Supreme Court to p-ss off nearly half the nation with whatever decision they hand down. But if they delay a decision entirely til after the election, they’ll have p-ssed off everyone. Especially if they milk it like this.

Doughboy on June 28, 2012 at 9:35 AM

If i was John Roberts why would I want to go through this again in 2 years.

If 5 justices really think it should be repealed than repeal it.

If 5 justices think it should be upheld than uphold it.

better to decide now before implemented than 2 years after implementation

gerrym51 on June 28, 2012 at 9:36 AM

to not get to constitutional issues you don’t have to in order to dispose of a dispute

Um…. Isn’t it his job to consider the constitutionality of laws passed by congress?

Gonzalez is such a putz.

Bitter Clinger on June 28, 2012 at 9:26 AM

He sure is.

UltimateBob on June 28, 2012 at 9:36 AM

What are the five stages of grief again?

denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

Gonzales appears to be at the bargaining stage.

Nancy Pelosi is still at stage DEFCON 1 LOL!

Dr Evil on June 28, 2012 at 9:37 AM

STAY OUT OF ‘DEM BUSHES!!!!

Eph on June 28, 2012 at 9:37 AM

Everybody is expecting the bold decision, but I’m afraid we’re going to get weak tea.

WisRich on June 28, 2012 at 9:38 AM

I think that if they were going to do that, the opinion would not have been held until the last possible day. Also, the time that Roberts and Ginsburg have apparently spent writing opinions for the case does not indicate—to me, at least—that a ruling on a smaller issue like ripeness is coming.

wte9 on June 28, 2012 at 9:42 AM

I always thought Gonzales was a doofus.

CatoRenasci on June 28, 2012 at 9:48 AM

“That may mean, that he’s going to be pushing the court to perhaps not make a decision on this case, wait until 2015, when the penalties on individual mandate come into play….

WTF?

By 2015…

1) Obamacare’s pilfering $500 billion from Medicare/Medicaid will be apparent, with irreversible damage
2) Medicare & Medicaid may be bankrupt
3) rates of early retirement of experienced clinicians will accelerate
4) rates of new primary care physicians produced from US med schools & residencies will decrease
5) #s of foreign physicians will increase
6) #s of nurse practitioners & physician assistants will increase
7) obvious medical rationing will increase
8) health insurance premiums will soar

…. and on and on and on…

In other words, this country’s medical profession will drop into the toilet… & this country’s journey to fiscal disaster will accelerate past the point of no return

If Obamacare isn’t overturned with reasonable honest & practical medical system & financial & entitlement system reforms do not occur within the next year, Obama & Reid & Pelosi will have achieved their long desired goal… irreversible destruction of this republic.

Danny on June 28, 2012 at 9:52 AM

Shouldn’t you be hassling dying people in the hospital?

Oil Can on June 28, 2012 at 9:52 AM

Do we really need this at 0 hour.

msupertas on June 28, 2012 at 9:24 AM

Amen! This is nonsensical prognostication!

tomshup on June 28, 2012 at 9:53 AM

“Everybody is expecting the bold decision, but I’m afraid we’re going to get weak tea.”

Unfortunately, I agree with WisRich! Like the AZ finding, I ‘spect we’ll see yet another ‘Solomon’ like decision in this case. Neither side will be happy… the the cost of the fight will go on and on. And the baby suffers the most!!

There is an abject fear across the land today to make any solid decision — left or right. Just take the middle route and let the next generation worry about the outcome!

Some day that can is gonna fall into the sewer grate by the side of the road….

Pecozbill on June 28, 2012 at 9:53 AM

A punt in the form of ruling that the case isn’t yet ripe for Supreme Court review would solve nothing for Roberts, though … unless he plans to retire in the next two or three years.

Or unless Romney wins and repeals it. I mean, there is still a remote possibility that the Court would never have to rule on this.

Esthier on June 28, 2012 at 9:54 AM

I always thought Gonzales was a doofus.

CatoRenasci on June 28, 2012 at 9:48 AM

Compassionate conservative is code for “progressive”.

Dr Evil on June 28, 2012 at 9:54 AM

I’d be pretty angry if they punted. It’s not like delaying the decision will not have a negative effect on people’s lives.

Blake on June 28, 2012 at 9:55 AM

He didn’t punt, he kicked his own goal.

Viator on June 28, 2012 at 10:15 AM

We are doomed. Gonzalez was partly right. Roberts screwed us.

either orr on June 28, 2012 at 10:15 AM

Just this week alone, Justice John Roberts has demonstrated that he too is a ‘stealth’ SCOTUS nominee much like Souter who was also nominated by a Bush.
You either abide by The Constitution or you don’t. It’s that damn simple.
See ya, Roberts, yer just another squishy Beltway hack.
Oh, and thanks to you too, GW, ya blew it. Scalia should have been Chief.
(not that it would make any difference)
~(Ä)~

Karl Magnus on June 28, 2012 at 10:28 AM

Gonzales: Maybe Roberts will punt today

Ya think?

Valkyriepundit on June 28, 2012 at 10:32 AM

10:35 am EST– Well, it looks like Gonzales called it EXACTLY right. I am so bitter about Republican presidents who appoint people to the Supreme Court, only to see them vote like liberal Dems. Roberts wants the NY Times to love him and now it will until the next huge case. This never has happened the other way around. I hated the Supreme Court before this case and I hate it even more now.

BillCarson on June 28, 2012 at 10:38 AM

10:35 am EST– Well, it looks like Gonzales called it EXACTLY right.
BillCarson on June 28, 2012 at 10:38 AM

Indeed it does.

petefrt on June 28, 2012 at 11:41 AM

This further proves that Gonzales was not up to the job, and neither is Roberts! The Chief Justice should never be the one who punts….which proves his cowardice! If Kennedy wanted to throw the whole thing out, it had to be a no brainer, unconstitutional law.

tomshup on June 28, 2012 at 11:56 AM

“I spent a great deal of time vetting Justice Roberts in making my recommendation to President [George W.] Bush that he appoint Chief Justice Roberts to the court,”

…nice job azzhole!!!!

KOOLAID2 on June 28, 2012 at 12:19 PM

We’re screwed.

rplat on June 28, 2012 at 3:44 PM

Alberto Gonzales…

Bush puppet….amnesty lover….establishment RINO Republican.

In other words…a true douchebag.

Always remember Ramos and Compean.

Tim_CA on June 28, 2012 at 7:08 PM

We’re Dorothy on the yellow brick road. Roberts has proven that he is all three of the accompanying characters rolled into one since has no courage, no heart, and no brain. We already know who the wizard is. Now, it is up to Dorothy to figure out whether we can make it back to Kansas on our own.

EdmundBurke247 on June 28, 2012 at 8:29 PM

Well, it looks like for once, I agree with Obama: this IS Bush’s fault.

The seeds we sow, we get to reap. Compromise principal and you lose absolutely and forever.

Portia46 on June 29, 2012 at 10:16 AM