Skip to content


News Posted on July 10, 2012

Associate Dean Amar Comments for Media on Supreme Court Healthcare Ruling

Vikram Amar, Associate Dean and Professor of Law at UC Davis School of Law, commented for the Wall Street Journal, ABC, CBS, KQED, Politico, PolitiFact, and other media outlets on the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision regarding the Affordable Care Act.  He also co-authored a commentary on the Act with his brother, Yale Law School Professor Akhil Amar, that was published in the Los Angeles Times

In the op-ed, Amar praised Chief Justice John G. Roberts' role in crafting an opinion that upheld key aspects of the healthcare reform law, widely viewed as the signature achievement of the Obama administration, while also "cutting back on established understandings of federal power" in ways that reflect Roberts' conservative philosophy.

"Even as it upheld a law in which the president had invested significant political capital, Roberts' ruling placed new limits on Congress' commerce and spending clause powers, thereby promoting the conservative constitutional values that Roberts has always espoused," Amar wrote.

Prior to the announcement of the decision, "conventional wisdom" held that Justice Anthony Kennedy would likely serve as the swing voter on the issue, so many observers were surprised when Justice Roberts sided with the four "liberal" justices to uphold the Act's individual mandate provision.  But the result was not entirely unexpected, because "when it comes to federal powers, Chief Justice Roberts now has a few cases under his belt where he has indicated a pretty generous view towards the federal government," Amar commented for KQED.

Amar also commented for the Wall Street Journal on the Court's rejection of the portion of the Act that authorized the Department of Health and Human Services to expel states from the Medicaid program if they did not go along with the expansion of Medicaid.   The ruling "certainly is going to invite challenges" from states to other state/federal programs, he said. "The court certainly knew it was encouraging states to run with it."

In an interview with ABC news, Associate Dean Amar commented on the evidence that Chief Justice John Roberts switched his position over the course of the Court's deliberation on the Act. A former Supreme Court clerk under the late Justice Harry Blackmun, Amar said that while it is "extraordinary" for information regarding the inner workings of the Court to become public immediately after a ruling, the more important issue may be, "Why is it wrong for a Supreme Court justice to change his or her mind?"

Vikram Amar, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and Professor of Law with the UC Davis School of Law, is a national authority in the fields of constitutional law, civil procedure, criminal procedure, and remedies. His biweekly column for, a leading provider of online legal information, centers on his expertise in constitutional law.

Los Angeles Times

Wall Street Journal

ABC News