Don Verrilli

At the conclusion of yesterday’s oral arguments in Arizona v. U.S., the case that will decide the fate of Arizona law SB 1070, Chief Justice John Roberts said, “Thank you, Mr. Clement, General Verrilli.

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Everybody is down on Solicitor General Don Verrilli, who presented the government’s case for the Affordable Care Act at the Supreme Court last week. And everybody is up on attorney former Solicitor General Paul Clement, who argued on behalf of the states challenging the law. But the attorney who impressed me last week was one that almost nobody seems to have noticed: H. Bartow Farr. Who is Farr?

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There are two ways to explain the early onset of liberal panic over last week’s health care hearings at the Supreme Court. In the first, Solicitor General Don Verrilli turned in an unexpectedly weak performance during last Tuesday's oral arguments, flubbing tough questions from the court’s skeptical swing votes.

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Venturing into the health care arena when your magazine has Jonathan Cohn to cover the subject is like offering to be a fry cook at Jean Georges.

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Everybody calm down. And when I say everybody, I include myself. Tuesday’s oral argument at the Supreme Court was not the finest hour for health care reform, for the philosophy of activist government, or for Solicitor General Don Verrilli. But oral arguments don’t typically change the outcome of cases. They are important primarily for the signals they send about the justices’ thinking.

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My first impression from day two at the Supreme Court: I was more confident yesterday than I am today. With the caveat that I know health policy a lot better than I know law, I can still imagine the justices upholding the individual mandate. But, at this point, I can just as easily imagine them striking it down.  Tuesday's hearing was energized and contentious, from start to finish. But while the justices hammered lawyers from both sides with difficult questions, Solicitor General Don Verrilli seemed to struggle more than Paul Clement, attorney for the states.

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Oral arguments for the Supreme Court on Monday were supposed to be boring. The subject wasn’t the individual mandate, after all. It was the Anti-Injunction Act, a relatively obscure law that prevents courts from hearing legal challenges to taxes until after somebody has paid them. But while the session was not always exciting, the justices did drop two hints about their thinking. All the justices seem eager to decide this case, rather than punting on jurisdictional grounds.

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