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NFIB v. Sebelius

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In the Supreme Court case NFIB v. Sebelius, Roberts establishes his opinion on the role of the court, taking in consideration John Marshall’s opinion of judicial review in Marbury v.

Madison; judicial review is present in both cases but in different ways. Roberts was aware that allowing Congress the power to control the purchase of healthcare services under the Commerce Clause was overstepping its boundaries, and so his opinion stating that Congress cannot control inactivity created precedential value. When Chief Justice Marshall first established the important principle of judicial review in Marbury v.

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Madison, his goal was to give the judicial branch a safeguard by expanding the Court’s power and legitimizing the weakest branch of government. As Hamilton pointed out in Federalist 78, the judicial branch “will always be the least dangerous to the political rights of the Constitution” because it “has no influence over the either the sword or the purse, no direction of either the strength or the wealth of society, and can take no action whatsoever.

He says the Court does not have “FORCE nor WILL, but merely judgment, and must ultimately depend upon the aid of the executive arm for the efficacy of its judgments” (Fed. 8). The Court has the authority to say whether a law is constitutional, and Marshall gives himself that final authority without addressing enforcement, because the power to enforce belongs to the executive. The Court simply writes the opinion. In Marshall’s opinion in Marbury v. Madison, he says, “if both the law and the constitution apply to a particular case, so that the court must either decide that case conformably to the law, disregarding the constitution; or conformably to the constitution, disregarding the law; the court must determine which of these conflicting rules governs the case.

This is of the very essence of judicial duty” (317). Judicial review for Marshall was to balance the powers of the branches of government and to establish the Court’s authority. In Robert’s opinion in NFIB v. Sebelius, the goal of the Court is to maintain its authority and to maintain the people’s trust. But there is an irony in that. The Court’s strength lies in its own independence as a result of the people’s trust. Although judicial review is the source of the Court’s authority, it is also a guaranteed way to lose the trust of the people. This is Roberts’ dilemma regarding judicial review.

In this case, Chief Justice Roberts determines the role of the Court in his opinion. Roberts argues that the point of the Court is not to say whether a law is good or bad, if the people do not like the bill, it is their fault. Roberts says, “the responsibility of this Court is to enforce the limits on federal power by striking down the acts of Congress that transgress those limits” (Roberts, pg 6). He also says, “we must determine whether the Constitution grants Congress powers it now asserts, but which many States and individuals believe it does not possess” (Roberts, pg 2).

To do so, the Court must examine the limits on the Government’s power and their own limited role in “policing those boundaries” (2). In this case, Roberts says the Court must uphold its constitutionality and the fundamental will of the people. With his opinion is NFIB v. Sebelius, Roberts established precedential value for this case. It is now regarded as an example to be considered in the subsequent similar cases. Justice Ginsburg said in her opinion that “until today, this Courts Pragmatic approach to judging whether Congress validly exercised its commerce power was guided by two familiar principles” (Ginsburg, pg 15).

The first was that Congress had the power to regulate activities that substantially affect interstate commerce and if it had a rational basis to do so. Also, whether there is a “reasonable connection between the regulatory means selected and the asserted ends” (Ginsburg, pg 16). In this case, the Chief Justice acknowledged that Congress’s authority to regulate interstate commerce is broad but he also stated that it had never attempted to use this power to require individuals to buy a product. He notes that the language of the Clause suggests that there has to be some activity to regulate.

What makes this case different is that Roberts says that is not within Congress’s power to regulate nonexistent activity. This case has precedential value because there is a defined limit on Congress’s power, compared to the vagueness of the substantial effects and the rational basis test. This case now sets the standard for how similar cases should be handled in the future. Roberts was aware that regulating individuals based on what they do not do, would expand the reach of the Commerce Clause past its limits, and change the relationship between the citizen and the federal government.

The Court’s decision creates a new restriction on Congress’s authority under the Commerce Clause—that Congress can only regulate commercial activity, not compel an individual to engage in it—which reinforces the idea that Congress’s Commerce Clause authority has boundaries.

Works Cited

Lunder, Erika K. , and Jennifer Staman. “NFIB v. Sebelius: Constitutionality of the Individual Mandate. ” Congressional Research Service, 3 Sept. 2012. Web. 24 Oct. 2012. . National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius. 567 U. S. ___ . The Supreme Court of the United States. 2012. Print.

Cite this NFIB v. Sebelius

NFIB v. Sebelius. (2017, Jan 26). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/nfib-v-sebelius/

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