"Roberts is, to be sure, no shrinking violet about ideologically divided opinions when, in his view, the law compels them, but he apparently has a more flexible view than do his conservative colleagues concerning the difference for constitutional purposes between a penalty and a tax," Wittes said. "In other words, don't be too surprised if Roberts next terms looks like a conservative again. He actually did not stray very far from where the other four conservatives ended up in this case — just over a consequential line."
Roberts repeated his desire to have the court adhere to judicial modesty Thursday at the start of his health care opinion.
"We do not consider whether the act embodies sound policies. That judgment is entrusted to the nation's elected leaders. We ask only whether Congress has the power under the Constitution to enact the challenged provisions," he wrote.
Thursday's dissenters accused Roberts of "vast judicial overreaching." Several years ago, Justice Stephen Breyer said of Roberts and the other conservatives at the end of an especially contentious term with an unusually high number of 5-4 decisions that "never have so few done so much" in so little time.
Roberts has been mocked for comparing a justice to a baseball umpire calling balls and strikes.
But umpires often take it as a compliment when both teams are griping about their rulings.
Supreme Court interactive: http://hosted.ap.org/interactives/2012/supreme-court
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