By Luke Vargas
Solicitor General Donald Verrilli may be a celebrity in the eyes of judicial enthusiasts for his successful defense of President Obama’s health care law, but don’t count on him making headlines anytime soon.
At the Heritage Foundation’s annual recap of the Supreme Court’s term, Verrilli was mum on offering personal commentary or reaction to the ruling, other than to reassert his arguments made in both oral arguments and the government’s written briefs.
“On health care, at this point, it’s not clear how much I can add to what everybody already knows, given the saturation coverage of the last couple of weeks,” Verrilli confessed at the outset of his prepared remarks, and he dedicated a mere 50 seconds to discussion of the Affordable Care Act.
Articulating with care his experience dealing with the gravity of his position, Solicitor General Verrilli explained, “I’m a government official, I’ve got a weighty responsibility.” Perhaps in reference to his performance during oral arguments for the Affordable Care Act – in which Verrilli seemed to suffer from congestion and occasionally stumbled in his remarks – he conceded to laughs from the audience that, “I ought to be subject to criticism like any other government official. I guess I was, and I’m okay with that.”
Considerably more willing and able to comment on the high court’s key rulings were Michael Carvin, an attorney who argued on behalf of candidate George W. Bush at the Florida Supreme Court in the landmark Bush v. Gore vote dispute of 2000, and Richard Epstein, a New York University law professor.
In voicing his displeasure at the Affordable Care Act ruling, Carvin said that Chief Justice Roberts “rewrote the statute and gave Congress, under the power of the taxing power, all the power that had just been removed under the Commerce Clause.” Carvin added that the ruling as akin “to the old saying that the operation was a success, but the patient died.”
Carvin’s chief complaint, however, centered on what he perceived to be inappropriate lobbying of the Supreme Court by the Obama Administration in recent months. Tracing back Obama’s actions to his 2010 State of the Union speech in which the President openly criticized the court’s ruling on the Citizens United v. FEC campaign finance case, Carvin said that Obama has been “wholly improper and wholly unprecedented” in attempting to intimidate the judicial branch.
“I don’t think it does anybody any good to engage in this kind of public lobbying campaign, particularly since it’s going to cheapen and call into question any victory you ultimately do get in the court, just like this one [the Affordable Care Act ruling] is going to be subject to question for a long time,” Carvin said.
Richard Epstein also denounced Obama’s public stance with regard to the court, describing his choice to condemn Citizens United in his State of the Union as “a very stupid thing for any sitting President of the United States to do.” Outlining the proper behavior of the executive branch with regard to the court, Epstein’s prescription was a simple one, “If you’re on litigation on a point, you do not speak about it outside of the court, outside of your designated representative.”