Alumni Short

Law School Hosts Debate on Obamacare Ruling

Ithaca, NEW YORK, September 6, 2012

On the evening of September 4, Myron Taylor’s G85 lecture hall filled to capacity and then some as two legal scholars took their seats to debate the Supreme Court’s June decision upholding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.

Representing the opposition to the Act was Ilya Shapiro, senior fellow of conservative think-tank the Cato Institute and editor-in-chief of the Cato Supreme Court Review. Shapiro has contributed to a variety of media outlets, including the Wall Street Journal, L.A. Times, CNN, Fox News, The Colbert Report, and NPR. Shapiro has been heavily involved in the Obamacare debate for over two years and has filed 10 amicus briefs pertaining to the case on behalf of Cato.

Facing off against Shapiro was the Law School’s Michael Dorf, Robert S. Stevens Professor of Law. Dorf has written several books and dozens of law review articles on constitutional law and related subjects. He served as a law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, and as amicus curiae in Fisher v. Univ. of Texas (currently pending) and Grutter v. Bollinger. He was the main author of the AALS amicus brief in support of the winning side in the 2010 Supreme Court case of Christian Legal Society v. Martinez. Dorf writes a bi-weekly column for Justia's free web magazine Verdict and posts several times per week on his blog, Dorf on Law.

After leisurely opening comments, during which Shapiro referred to the issue as “the case of a generation, if not a lifetime” while Dorf questioned whether the decision actually mattered, the debate picked up speed as the two bandied history, hypotheticals, and implications. The back-and-forth ended on the topic of Chief Justice John Roberts’ motives in upholding the Act, which Shapiro energetically denounced as strategic rather than legal, much to Dorf’s skepticism.

Closing remarks were delivered by Stewart J. Schwab, the Allan R. Tessler Dean and Professor of Law, who applauded the Cornell Law School Federalist Society for organizing the event, remarking, “It’s a great way to start the semester — with vigorous debate.”

-- Owen Lubozynski