Today's ruling reveals how SCOTUS will analyze King v Burwell

2/25/2015 03:13:00 PM
Yates v United States has been bouncing around twitter all day, far more famous for the fact that Justice Kagan cited Dr. Seuss in her dissenting opinion:
" A fish is, of course, a discrete thing that possesses physical form. See generally Dr. Seuss, One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish (1960). So the ordinary meaning of the term “tangible object” in §1519, as no one here disputes, covers fish (including too-small red grouper)."
However, a more interesting aspect of the case was why the majority opinion sided with Yates. As Mark Joseph Stern explains:
"Yates fought back, insisting that undersized grouper didn’t qualify as a “tangible object” under the Sarbanes-Oxley, which was enacted following the Enron scandal to stop financial firms from shredding incriminating documents. In a closely divided ruling, the Supreme Court sided with Yates, with a plurality of the justices reading the statute to cover “only objects one can use to record or preserve information, not all objects in the physical world.” Justice Samuel Alito concurred in the judgment, providing a key fifth vote for Yates, noting that “the statute’s list of nouns, its list of verbs, and its title” all apply to “filekeeping,” not fish. This, Alito held, “tip[s] the case in favor of Yates.”"
So there you have it. The Supreme Court just ruled that it must reject the literal, dictionary definitions of terms, even though the statute does not offer an unambiguous alternative, based on the context and totality of the statute. As numerous experts have noted, if the court applies this same standard to the ACA, then it thoroughly kills King's case in King v Burwell.