Scalia: No falling out with Roberts over health care

Before the Supreme Court’s decision on the health-care law, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg warned not to believe rumors of what the court was going to do.

She subscribed to the principle that those who know about the court’s decisions before they are announced don’t talk, and those who talk don’t know, she said.

Justice Antonin Scalia added his own twist Wednesday night as he denied reports that the conservative justices have had a falling out with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. over his vote to uphold the individual mandate, the key element of the Affordable Care Act.

“You shouldn’t believe what you read about the court in the newspapers, because the information has either been made up or given to the newspapers by somebody who is violating a confidence, which means that person is not reliable,” Scalia said during an interview on CNN’s Piers Morgan Tonight.

“So you’ve had no falling out with Justice Roberts?” Morgan asked.

“I’m not going to talk about — no, I haven’t had a falling out with Justice Roberts,” Scalia responded.

“Best buddies?” Morgan followed up.

“My best buddy on the court is Ruth Bader Ginsburg, has always been,” Scalia answered.

Scalia was on the program to promote a new book, “Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts.” It is the second book that he has written with co-author Bryan A. Garner.

Scalia had apparently told Morgan beforehand he would not discuss the court’s decisions from last term.

Since the court’s 5-to-4 decision last month upholding President Obama’s health-care overhaul, there have been reports of a struggle among the conservative justices and that Roberts switched his vote during the private deliberations. The most detailed reports have come from CBS’s Jan Crawford, who has written a book about the court that’s well-received in the conservative legal community.

Scalia dodged most of Morgan’s questions about criticism of Roberts from conservatives.

When Morgan asked about “Chief Justice Roberts getting criticized for being political, for being partisan,” Scalia interrupted: “I’ve been out of the country for most of that, I have to tell you.”

But Scalia did object to descriptions of the court as political. “Not a single one” of his colleagues approaches cases with a partisan eye, he said.

“I don’t think any of my colleagues, on any cases, vote the way they do for political reasons,” Scalia said. “They vote the way they do because they have their — their own — their own judicial philosophy. And they may have been selected by the Democrats because they have that . . . particular philosophy or they may have been selected by the Republicans because they have that particular judicial philosophy.

“But that is only to say that they are who they are.”

In the rest of the interview, Scalia acknowledged that Bush v. Gore was probably the most controversial decision of his time on the bench, and he repeated his oft-delivered advice that those who disagreed with the ruling should “get over it.” Newspaper investigations show that had the Supreme Court allowed the Florida recount in the 2000 presidential election to continue, Democratic nominee Al Gore “would have lost anyway.”

Scalia also defended the court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision that said corporations and labor unions had a free speech right to spend freely for or against candidates.

When Morgan said Thomas Jefferson would have been surprised by “super PACS funded by billionaires” trying to buy elections, Scalia responded:

“I think Thomas Jefferson would have said the more speech, the better. That’s what the First Amendment is all about.”

Robert Barnes has been a Washington Post reporter and editor since 1987. He has covered the Supreme Court since November 2006. He gave up law school plans for a life in newspapers after taking a journalism class in college. It did not occur to him, as it apparently did to others, that he could do both.
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