Report: Justice Roberts Switched Positions on Health Care Law

Alexandra Jaffe
July 2, 2012

Chief Justice John Roberts switched positions on the Affordable Care Act to ultimately side with liberal justices, according to a CBS report that reveals many details concerning the notoriously secretive negotiations that go on behind the scenes in the Supreme Court.

The report cites "two sources with specific knowledge of the deliberations" who say that Roberts originally sided with the four conservative justices in declaring the individual mandate unconstitutional. Those justices would have stricken the entire law, as they believed the mandate to be an integral part, but while Roberts agreed that the individual mandate was unconstitutional under Congress' power to regulate commerce, he felt less strongly about whether the entire law should fall.

Roberts eventually went on to switch positions and side with the liberal justices, perhaps in response to increasing pressure from outside the Court to rule in favor of the law, CBS reports. Though the conservative justices tried to lobby him back, he remained unswayed, and in fact attempted to convince Justice Anthony Kennedy to join him on the decision to make the court appear more unified on the issue.

CBS also reports that Justices Kennedy and Antonin Scalia wrote most of the dissent, and that speculation that parts of the dissent were originally written by Roberts before he changed his mind are incorrect.