Roberts Legacy Injected with Nuance

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Chief Justice John Roberts

Serving as the junior senator from Illinois, Barack Obama met in private quarters with a fellow graduate of Harvard Law School, John Roberts Jr., President George W. Bush’s nominee for chief justice of the Supreme Court .

Obama cast a public vote against Roberts’ confirmation.

In his pubic swearing in as president, Roberts botched the wording of Obama’s oath  – they repeated the ceremony the next day in private, to be certain.

Now Roberts, in the most public way possible, has saved the signature legislative achievement of Obama’s term, as Obama seeks a second, four months from Election Day. He broke the tie and wrote the 5-4 ruling upholding the thrust of Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Roberts is the talk of Washington today — with a spectrum of respect and criticism that runs the gamut from people hailing his statesmanship to people calling for his ouster. The one who has it right, we’ll suggest, is the guy who read a convoluted ruling fastest, the guy who got it right, and first, on decision day.

This is the start of Bloomberg’s Greg Stohr’s take on Roberts:

With a single vote supporting President Barack Obama’s health-care law, Republican-appointed Chief Justice John Roberts asserted his independence and defused claims that partisanship rules the Supreme Court.

Roberts joined four Democratic-selected justices to uphold the biggest change to the U.S. medical system in a half-century. The law, almost universally rejected by Republicans, is designed to expand insurance to at least 30 million Americans.

The ruling injects nuance into the legacy of a chief justice who since his 2005 appointment by President George W. Bush has led the court’s conservative wing in supporting gun rights, overturning campaign-finance restrictions and limiting racial preferences. It came three days after Roberts and JusticeAnthony Kennedy joined liberal justices in striking down most of an Arizona law cracking down on illegal immigrants.

“It would appear that he has put the prestige of the court and the institutional image of the court as nonpartisan above his ideological values,” said James F. Simon, the former dean ofNew York Law School and the author of six books about the Supreme Court, referring to the health-care law.

For Roberts, who worked in President Ronald Reagan’s administration and whose 2005 nomination then-Senator Obama opposed, the decision upholding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act almost certainly cut against his political and policy instincts. His vote helped avert the prospect of an ideologically divided court undercutting a president’s signature achievement little more than four months before an election.

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