University of Pittsburgh
June 28, 2012

Pitt Professors Available to Comment on Supreme Court Decision on President Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

“With this decision, this Republican-appointed chief justice has upheld a key initiative of the Democratic Party.”—Pitt Law Professor Arthur D. Hellman
Contact:  412-624-4147


PITTSBURGH—University of Pittsburgh Law Professor Arthur D. Hellman, a leading authority on constitutional law, Political Science Professor Chris Bonneau, an expert on judicial decision making, and Communication Professor Gerald R. Shuster, an expert in presidential rhetoric and political communications, are available to discuss today’s U.S. Supreme Court decision on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) signed by President Obama in March 2010.

“Not even the most experienced observer predicted what the court did this morning,” commented Hellman. “The consensus of scholars was that the commerce clause argument was stronger. When scholars across the political spectrum come to a conclusion, that has a lot of force. But this time, the Supreme Court surprised all of us.” 

Hellman added, “The Supreme Court’s prior decisions allowed Congress to do this as a tax. With this decision, this Republican-appointed chief justice has upheld a key initiative of the Democratic Party. And it’s very, very unlikely there would be a valid constitutional challenge to taking away whatever provisions would be in this new law. The obstacles—the very real obstacles—are political obstacles. But even if there’s a change in the administration, it’s not going to be repealed overnight. The odds are good that this law will be with us for a while. There may be some tweaks to it, but getting it off the books entirely is a very long-shot proposition.”

“The Court today, in a decision reached by both liberal and conservative justices, agreed that the ACA passes constitutional muster,” said Bonneau. “This legitimization is important both as a policy matter and because it is the signature legislative accomplishment of President Obama's first term.”

“Though perhaps only a temporary victory for President Obama, this Supreme Court decision was a clear victory nonetheless,” said Shuster. “This ruling is especially negative for the Tea Party conservatives, since the chief justice actually sided with the liberal element of the court in the decision."

Shuster continued, “Though the Republicans still have the fall to repeal the law, given the impact of the presidential election, the Democrats are skillful enough to spin any repeal attempt by the House Speaker and the Republicans to make it appear as a lack of concern for the uninsured and indigent. Given those parameters, Romney clearly has his work cut out for him, and he must be very specific for any of his proposals to be accepted. It simply won’t be good enough just to be critical of Obamacare anymore.”

Arthur D. Hellman

Pitt’s Sally Ann Semenko Endowed Chair, Hellman has achieved a national reputation as a federal courts scholar. He is one of the leading academic commentators on issues of federal judicial ethics and is the nation’s leading academic authority on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the largest of the federal appellate courts. Hellman’s studies on the operation of precedent in the U.S. Supreme Court and the courts of appeals have been used as a basis for policy decisions at both the federal and state levels.

Over the years, Hellman has testified as an invited witness at hearings of the Judiciary Committees in the U.S. House and Senate. Hellman’s proposals for overruling a Supreme Court decision on federal jurisdiction were adopted in the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (H.R. 1249), previously called the Patent Reform Act of 2011, that was enacted into law this past September.

Among the articles and books Hellman has written are two casebooks, Federal Courts: Cases and Materials on Judicial Federalism and the Lawyering Process (LexisNexis, 2d ed. 2009), with Lauren Robel and David R. Stras, and First Amendment Law: Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Religion (LexisNexis/Matthew Bender, 2d 3d. 2010), with William D. Araiza and Thomas E. Baker.

Chris Bonneau

Bonneau is associate professor of political science in the University of Pittsburgh’s Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, which he joined in 2002. Bonneau’s research is primarily in the areas of judicial decision making and selection. His work has been supported by the National Science Foundation, and he has had numerous articles published in such peer-reviewed publications as the American Journal of Political Science and Journal of Politics. Bonneau is also the coauthor of two books:  Strategic Behavior and Policy Choice on the U.S. Supreme Court (Stanford University Press, 2005) and In Defense of Judicial Elections (Routledge, 2009). 

Bonneau teaches courses in constitutional law, judicial politics, and research design.

Gerald R. Shuster

Shuster’s primary interest in the political arena is from a communications perspective, evaluating communications theories and concepts in campaigns by the strategies candidates and political parties use. Shuster’s expertise includes the modern presidency, from John F. Kennedy to the current president, in terms of the presidents’ rhetorical styles and strategies: He analyzes their public comments and speeches and the impact of both on Congress and other audiences. Shuster frequently provides the national and international media with commentary on political issues, campaigns, and events.

Shuster’s detailed analysis of a 2008 Obama campaign speech was published in the Washington Post and his commentary on various topics appeared in such places as CBS News, MSNBC, NewsTALK93 in Jamaica, AFP-AP France, Arizona Republic, Los Angeles Times, and US News and World Report.







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