The Affordable Care Act Arguments

There's been a great deal of coverage in the media about the amount of time the Court has allocated to arguments in the ACA challenges, which it will hear at the end of this month. Just how significant is it that the Court granted six hours of arguments to these challenges? The answer is a bit complicated.

First, it's worth noting that the ACA challenges are actually three distinct cases (although they all arose out of the same case in the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit). This isn't the first time the Court has granted review in multiple, closely related cases without officially consolidating them. Although such an event is rare, a similar thing happened when the Court reviewed the death penalty cases of 1976. But, because they're being argued sequentially, and because the media is treating them as such, we'll consider the ACA challenges a single event.

How, then, does it stack up compared to other long arguments? We reviewed all arguments before the Court since 1955.

So, if the ACA arguments are as long as expected, they will be the ninth longest argument since the Warren Court days.

A couple of caveats though: First, many of these cases are from the Court's original jurisdiction docket, where the Court would act as the decision-maker of first impression. And, almost all of these cases are from before 1970, when the Court reduced its normal argument length from two hours to one.

Accounting for these factors, the ACA argument length appears significantly more impressive. The six hours the Court has given to this challenge is six times greater than the normal one hour; this is something it has not done since Brown v. Board of Education (1955).