Obamacare on Appeal: Statutory Construction of This Politically Charged Question Will Inevitably Be Called Judicial Activism
In June, I wrote here that law professors should use the Supreme Court’s reversal of a Fourth Circuit opinion (CTS Corp. v. Waldburger) as their case study to teach the complexity of statutory construction. But I fear that a subsequent pair of conflicting, high-profile opinions in the D.C. Circuit and Fourth Circuit construing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) is what many law professors will be using to teach statutory construction. Halbig v. Burwell, No. 14-5018 (D.C. Cir. July 22, 2014), rehearing en banc granted (Sep. 4, 2014), and King v. Burwell, No. 14-1158 (4th Cir. July 22, 2014), are attractive as important cases that present a pure question of statutory construction, but using them to teach statutory construction runs the risk that students will see statutory construction as a mere euphemism for partisan “judicial activism.” The opinions are best used to instead explore the precarious role of appellate judges in resolving politically charged controversies.