Since the late 1960s, the Supreme Court has limited oral arguments to one hour per case in all but a handful of cases. With the Court's announcement yesterday that it will hear an unprecedented 5.5 hours of oral argument in the Health Care Reform Cases, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) joins the pantheon of landmark legal battlegrounds that have shaped American jurisprudence.
SCOTUSBlog.com’s Lyle Denniston reports:
On Monday, March 26, the Court will hear one hour of argument on whether challenges to the individual insurance mandate are barred by the federal Anti-Injunction Act. On Tuesday, March 27, the Court will hear two hours of argument on the constitutionality of the individual insurance mandate. And on Wednesday, March 28, the Court will hear 90 minutes of argument in the morning on the question of whether any of the ACA, or some parts of it, could survive if the Court were to strike down the individual insurance mandate, followed in the afternoon by one hour of argument on the constitutionality of the new law’s expansion of the federal Medicaid program for the poor and disabled. (See here.)
Perhaps the most controversial issue before the Court involves the PPACA's individual mandate, which would require almost all Americans to purchase health care insurance starting in 2014. As CNN.com reported yesterday (here),
Three federal appeals courts have found the PPACA to be constitutional, while another has said it is not, labeling it "breathtaking in its expansive scope." That "circuit split" all but assured the Supreme Court would step in and decide the matter.
Professor Jerry Goldman explains this significance in the following video:
In case you missed it in the video, here is the list of longest oral arguments:
(1) Brown v. Board of Education (Brown I), 347 U.S. 483 (1954): 15 hours.
(2) Brown v. Board of Education (Brown II), 349 U.S. 294 (1955) (Brown II): 13.5 hours.
(3) South Carolina v. Katzenbach, 383 U.S. 301 (1966): 7 hours.
(4) Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966): 6 hours.
(5) Health Care Reform Cases (2011): 5.5 hours.
(6) Death Penalty Cases of 1976: 5 hours.
If the time allotted by the Court for oral arguments is indicative of a particular case's legal significance, then next year's Health Care Reform decision will rank among the Supreme Court's most notable. Stay tuned for more coverage of the circuit splits before the Supreme Court in what is shaping up to be an "epic" term.