Tag Archives: ERISA

“States’ Rights,” “Judicial Activists” and Other Distractions

There is an interesting brief here, titled “The Supreme Court’s Two-Front War on the Safety Net: A Cautionary Tale for Health Care Reformers,” by attorneys Simon Lazarus and Harper Jean Tobin of the National Senior Citizens Law Center.

The premise of the brief, in a nutshell, is this:

Over the last several decades, conservative members of the Supreme Court have: (1) used Federal-laws-are-supreme theories to weaken individuals’ rights under ERISA (the law that applies to most middle-class individuals’ health insurance benefits); and (2) used States-laws-are-supreme theories to weaken individuals’ rights under Medicaid laws (which apply to most lower-class individuals’ health insurance benefits).

The article argues that the common denominator of the SC’s legal decisions is not their oft-stated pro-“States’-rights” ideology, or their oft-stated pro-federal-law-supremacy ideology (these ideologies are of course contradictory).  Rather, the denominator ideology is to favor businesses’ interests over those of individuals.

Whether or not one believes this article is accurate, I must say I like its approach of looking at what the Court does as opposed to what it says.  One of my law school professors once likened watching court decisions to watching mice run in a maze.  The chatter is not as important as where they go.

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