Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

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]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for the week of June 26-July 2.


    Vans Warped Tour: The festival returns Saturday to St. Petersburg's Vinoy Park, featuring shock-metal icons Gwar, hardcore punks Sick Of It All, ska band Save Ferris and indie-pop group Never Shout Never ($39.50-$49.50). vanswarpedtour. …

    Crowd for the Motionless in White band at the 2014 Vans Warped Tour at Vinoy Park, Friday, July 25, 2014.  CHERIE DIEZ   |   Times
  2. Airbag maker Takata bankruptcy filing expected in Japan, U.S.


    DETROIT — Drowning in a sea of lawsuits and recall costs, Japanese airbag maker Takata Corp. is expected to seek bankruptcy protection in Tokyo and the United States today.

  3. AP: Rick Scott to name Jimmy Patronis CFO on Monday


    From the AP's Gary Fineout:

    Florida Gov. Rick Scott is turning to a long-time political ally and former north Florida legislator to take over one of the top elected jobs in state government. 

    Then state Rep. Jimmy Patronis, R-Panama City Beach, left, and Gov. Rick Scott, tour downtown Panama City, Fla. on Tuesday, April 19, 2011. Scott will name Patronis CFO on Monday.
  4. Despite Pride success, Grand Central business owners upset over losing parade


    ST. PETERSBURG — The Grand Central District was packed with people Sunday, there to enjoy the St. Pete Pride Festival.

    Patrons eat lunch and cool off inside of the Community Cafe during the St. Pete Pride Street Festival along Central Ave. in St. Petersburg. LUIS SANTANA   |   Times

  5. Rays blow another lead, lose rubber match to Orioles (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Orioles rallied past the Rays on Sunday, winning the rubber match of the three-game series 8-5.

    Baltimore Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop (6) scores in the eighth in the final game of a three-game series between the Tampa Bay Rays and AL East rival the Baltimore Orioles at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, June 25, 2017.