April 8th, 2012
09:36 AM ET
10 years ago

Former solicitors general weigh in on high court

(CNN) - The most talked about Supreme Court oral arguments in years - those over President Barack Obama's health care legislation - sparked a flurry of interest in the role of United States Solicitor General. Donald Verrilli, the Obama administration's top lawyer, delivered what most court analysts characterized as a shaky performance, which led many of them to predict the Affordable Care Act's demise.

In an interview airing Sunday on "State of the Union," two former solicitors general weighed in on the state of the high court, and the propriety of Supreme Court justices overturning laws passed by Congress.

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Ken Starr, who served in the role under former presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, said recent comments from Obama questioning the court's role were "unfortunate."

"It's a serious issue," Starr told CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley. "Reasonable minds can differ about the issue. And I think it's unfortunate for the president of the United States to be politicizing the process, especially when the decision is now under consideration. The case is under consideration by the court. I think it's an injudicious comment."

On Monday, Obama was asked about measures his administration was taking in the event his health care law is overturned. Obama said such a decision would be "unprecedented."

Obama said: "I'm confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress, and I'd just remind conservative commentators that for years, what we've heard is the big problem on the bench was judicial activism, or a lack of judicial restraint, that an unelected group of people would somehow overturn a duly constituted and passed law."

Neal Katyal, who served as acting solicitor general under Obama, said the remarks got at an underlying shift in conservative thinking.

Katyal said historically, conservatives felt that "unelected judges shouldn't be making national policy unless a case, on constitutional grounds, is really clear, that something is clearly unconstitutional. Otherwise, it should be left to the political branches."

"I think it's surprising that now we see the new conservative movement really resorting to the courts to do what they haven't done at the legislative ballot box," Katyal added.

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Watch State of the Union with Candy Crowley Sundays at 9am ET. For the latest from State of the Union click here.

soundoff (4 Responses)
  1. Another Day in the Idiot Mines (the real one, not the whiny rightwing liar)

    Mr. Katyal nailed the GOBP for it's blatant hypocrisy. Good job!

    April 8, 2012 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  2. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    I remember "W' going after judges and justices, and the right wingnuts had no problem. What is the real reason right wingnut fascists criticize everything that our president does?

    April 8, 2012 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  3. Peace

    I do think in the end the High Court is going to give their advice how to go about the law and NOT the ruling.

    April 8, 2012 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  4. CA Cowgirl

    Yes, Bush did exactly that and big surprise, no backlash from the GOP back then. That ridiculous "assignment" by
    the SCOTUS was insane. Why is it 'activism" only if it goes against the grain for the conservatives? What a bunch of whiney babies. And tell me this conservatives, if the SCOTUS is the final word, why are you going after "Roe vs. Wade"? It's law; get over it.

    April 8, 2012 10:35 am at 10:35 am |