Today was not the day that everyone is waiting on (gay!) but it was a big day. It's funny because everyone is constantly checking their phones in class but instead of texting we're all furiously looking for breaking news updates. The nerd vibe is strong around the law school during SCOTUS season.
Today the court released big decisions in King v. Burwell and Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project. I didn't find out about either of them right away because I spent my morning at the neurologist's office, where I got chastised for using my cell-phone. Lately, I spend my time split pretty evenly between doctors and law school, thanks to a few mysteries that popped up on a CT scan I had at the beginning of the quarter. During the exam, the doctor was like, well, I'm not sure what is up with your brain (cool, thanks) but I'm pretty sure you have carpal tunnel. So instead of reading SCOTUS decisions right away, I was busy being fitted for a sexy new neck wrist brace that I have to wear for two months. The fact that I went to the neurologist and walked out with a wrist brace and a referral to an ophthalmologist is a testament to how bizarre things are around here lately.
Also, the doctor asked me to spell "world" backwards and I couldn't do it. I said "D-L-O-R-W" like twelve times before he was like, "Ok, that's... fine." So, there's that. Nothing more humbling than misspelling "world" to a doctor while balancing on alternating feet. Anyway.
I'm terrified that Obergefell will come out tomorrow morning while I'm stuck inside an MRI machine for an hour. When they asked if 9:30 am would work, I actually asked them to make it earlier for the express purpose of being out in case tomorrow is the day, although I think Monday is more likely. Luckily, no Monday tests scheduled yet.
Anyway, after my appointment I walked to school from the Hospital and directly into administrative law, which I was late for. And only after another hour pondering the differences in formal versus informal agency rulemaking and another half hour spent crying to A about how the doctor was kind of rude to me and I JUST DON'T WANT TO wear this stupid, stupid wrist brace did I get to finally look at the decisions. So I walked around the worst Whole Foods in existence (WHY IS IT ROUND?! WHY ARE THE AISLES SO TINY?) with my phone in front of my face reading SCOTUSblog updates.
In case there's any way you haven't read all about King and Burwell, here's the super short tl;dr version.
King v. Burwell
A billion people apparently have full time jobs trying to take down the ACA. This attempt involved the subsidies given in states that don't have their own health care exchange. Some states didn't set up their own market, so in those places residents can use a federal exchange to purchase their insurance. The ACA provides subsidies to people who buy their health insurance through marketplaces, in order to ensure it is affordable. The issue here is that a section of the ACA said that subsidies are available to people who purchase health insurance through state exchanges. Which left the stretch of a question of if people who are buying health insurance through the federal exchange were entitled to subsidies. Without subsidies, the insurance would be unaffordable and the ACA would fall apart.
Roberts wrote the opinion and Kennedy, Ginsberg, Sotomayor, Kagen and Breyer joined. It found that while the ACA did define "states" so as to not include the federal government, a reading of the statute as a whole indicated that "states" was not in fact limited to states. This is not exactly as insane as it sounds, because it would be illogical to not extend the subsidies to the federal government because that would ruin the whole act. And SCOTUS generally wants to not find the government to be stupid enough that it would invalidate itself.
So, yes the ACA is here to stay. Until the next challenge. But it will probably stay then, too.
Scalia is pretty mad about it. He calls the majority decision "pure applesauce" and calls out their "jiggery-pokery logic." Scalia at his finest.
Read the full decision and dissent here.
Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project
This case is certainly getting less press, but it is super important. At it's most basic ,the decision finds that cases of discrimination under the Fair Housing Act can be brought under the theory of disparate impact, meaning that if there was discrimination it doesn't matter if there was or was not an intent to discriminate. The court noted that it found that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act to allow for disparate impact claims based on "consequences of actions." Even though the FHA doesn't contain that exact language, disparate impact claims furthers the purpose of the statute. The decision was limited though, a plaintiff would need to show that an actual policy caused the disparate impact, not just that there was disparate impact. And there might be no liability if the policy was used for a "valid goal." So it is a conditional victory, but a victory nonetheless.
Read the full thing here.