High Court Likely to Vote on Health Care Law Today


The fate of President Obama’s landmark health care law likely will be decided Friday in an oak-paneled conference room adjoining the chambers of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.

There, the nine justices will meet alone to discuss the case that transfixed Americans for three days of oral arguments this week. When all have had their say, they will vote in order of seniority.
That initial decision may be altered as drafts of majority and dissenting opinions are written, circulated and rewritten, often many times. It might even be reversed during the lengthy writing process if one or more justices switch sides.
But one thing almost never changes. For most of the next three months, only the justices and 39 law clerks — four per justice and one each for the three living retired justices — will be privy to the ruling. And even in an age of Twitter and YouTube, it won’t leak.
“I think the Supreme Court is the one institution that doesn’t leak in modern-day Washington, D.C.,” says Steven Engel, a lawyer who served a decade ago as a law clerk to Justice Anthony Kennedy, a potential swing vote on the health care law.
After court adjourned at 2:24 p.m. Wednesday, the justices met to discuss Monday’s arguments — on whether an 1867 tax law should block any decision until 2015, when Americans who refuse to buy insurance would pay penalties. Based on comments Monday, they likely voted to plow ahead.
Friday, according to tradition, the justices will take their places around the conference table, then speak and vote. Roberts, as chief justice, will go first, followed by Antonin Scalia, the longest-serving justice.
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Richard Wolf