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Justices Say Any Discord Is Only Temporary

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by Publius
Posted July 16, 2012, 9:46 AM

The National Law Journal reports:

Members of the U.S. Supreme Court predict that any rifts among justices in the wake of the landmark health care decision are likely to heal quickly and that collegiality will return when the Court reconvenes for its next term.

"Everyone here does have the sense the institution is so much more important than the nine who are here at any point in time and we should not do anything to leave it in worse shape than it was in when we came on board," said one justice, speaking on condition of anonymity to The National Law Journal as the Court term was ending. The end of the 2011-12 term was "certainly hard," this justice said, but added, "My guess is we'll come back in the fall and have the opening conference and it will be almost the same. I would be very surprised if it's otherwise."

Speaking generally, another justice said, "The term always starts friendly and relaxed, and gets tense at the end when the most difficult cases pile up. It's still collegial, but there is an overlay of frustration."

Recent leaks following the justices' split decision upholding the Affordable Care Act contend that discord at the Court is "deep and personal" with long-lasting effects, in the words of CBS News correspondent Jan Crawford. The dissenters' anger is directed primarily at Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., who, according to the unnamed sources, voted with the Court's moderate-liberal members after initially siding with his conservative colleagues to strike down the so-called individual mandate.

While not discussing vote splits or internal disputes, the justices interviewed portrayed the Court as an institution that overcomes friction quickly and returns to its long-standing amiability. Justices take pride in the fact that both the Rehnquist and Robert courts have been considered the most collegial Supreme Courts in modern times. From all points on the ideological spectrum, justices say without hesitation that they never hear a raised voice or unkind word at their private conferences.

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