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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Justices Don't Read the Bills, Either

As previous posts have noted (here and here), members of Congress seldom read the bills that they pass.  Oral argument on the health care bill shows the Supreme Court justices do not always read the bills, either.  Politico reports:
Justice Antonin Scalia cut in when Deputy Solicitor General Edwin Kneedler said the justices would need to look at “the structure and the text” of the 2,700-page law .
“Mr. Kneedler, what happened to the Eighth Amendment?” Scalia asked — a joking reference to the Constitution’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. “You really want us to go through these 2,700 pages?
“And do you really expect the court to do that? Or do you expect us to — to give this function to our law clerks? Is this not totally unrealistic? That we are going to go through this enormous bill item by item and decide each one?"
Although “read the bill” was a rallying cry on the right during the congressional fight over the law, Chief Justice John Roberts seemed to acknowledge Wednesday that he hadn’t done so himself.
“Where is this line?” he asked Kneedler at one point. “I looked through the whole Act, I didn't read ... “
Justice Stephen Breyer brought sections of the law to court to use as props, but he admitted that he also hadn’t read all the words — and doesn’t intend to either.
“Here's the rest of it, you know, and when I look through the rest of it, I have all kinds of stuff in there. And I haven't read every word of that, I promise,” he said.