The politics of federal judges

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(NNPA)—The two conflicting appeals court rulings last week on the legality of a key provision of the Affordable Care Act—one supporting it and the other rejecting the health law—underscore the nexus between politics and the judiciary. All of the judges voting to uphold the ACA were appointed by Democrats. All of the judges voting to strike down the law were appointed by Republicans.

We’ve seen this scenario played out at the U.S. Supreme Court, with most controversial rulings decided on a 5-4 vote, with conservatives clinging to a one-vote margin. But the most important appointments might be those of federal appeals court judges, the last stop before a case reaches the Supreme Court.

Approximately 10,000 cases are appealed to the Supreme Court each year. Of those, only 75-80 are accepted. Therefore, many important decisions are made in cases that never reach the Supreme Court.

Separate appeals court rulings on a key provision of the Affordable Care Act on July 22 vividly illustrate the why looking at lower court judges is extremely important.

At issue was whether the federal government could provide subsidies to low- and middle-income citizens in the form of tax credits to purchase insurance coverage on the insurance marketplace operated by federal authorities.

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