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Q&A: When were the last long arguments in a Supreme Court case?

Long Supreme Court arguments

When the Obama health care law was before the Supreme Court, I saw several references to the time set for arguments being the most for any case in more than 40 years. What was that case?

There were six hours set aside over three days in late March for the Supreme Court's nine justices to hear arguments for and against Obama's health care bill, passed in 2010. It's also known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and some call it "Obamacare."

National Public Radio has reported that not since 1966 had the court allocated as much time for arguments in a case. In January of that year, the Voting Rights Act case of South Carolina vs. Katzenbach was argued for seven hours over two days. The justices upheld the act.

Feb. 28 through March 1 of that year, the court also listened to six hours of arguments over three days in the landmark Miranda vs. Arizona case. The justices ruled that suspects had to be advised of their rights before they are questioned.

Other cases with lengthy argument times, according to NPR, which cited the Oyez Project at Chicago-Kent College of Law as its source:

• In 1824, the court had arguments for 20 hours over five days in the case of Gibbons vs. Ogden, which interpreted Congress' powers under the commerce clause.

• The case of Brown vs. Board of Education I was estimated to have had about 15 hours of arguments — 8.5 in 1952 and 6.5 when it was reargued in 1953. In 1954, the court ruled that separating children in public schools on the basis of race was unconstitutional.

• In 1955, arguments in the Brown vs. Board of Education II case lasted 13.25 hours. In this case, the justices ordered the states to proceed with school desegregation with "all deliberate speed."

Most of the time, arguments are limited to an hour — 30 minutes per side — although occasionally the time will be stretched. In the 2000 case Bush vs. Gore, which decided the presidential election, each side got 45 minutes to plead its case.

Legal objections to Obamacare

Aside from the so-called tea party's alleged general principle of keeping government out of our lives, what is the strong objection in the polls to the Affordable Care Act — which seems to get people health insurance where they had none before?

There are plenty of objections from opponents, beyond the complaint about government getting more involved in health care. Here are a few:

• The law forces you to buy insurance or possibly be penalized. This is the key argument of the law's opponents. If the government can force you to buy a commodity such as insurance, they say, what's to stop it from forcing you to buy other products?

• Some object to forcing religious organizations to provide care that violates their moral beliefs.

• Some believe the law's costs will be enormous and add to the debt problem.

Q&A: When were the last long arguments in a Supreme Court case? 04/08/12 [Last modified: Sunday, April 8, 2012 4:30am]
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