“Our job is to follow the text even if doing so will supposedly undercut a basic objective of the statute,” says a five-Justice majority in Baker Botts v. ASARCO, LLC, slip op. at 13 (quoting from the dissent!). Justice Sotomayor concurred in the opinion — except as to that section. Breyer, Ginsburg, and Kagan dissented.
Is this an indication of the likely result in King v. Burwell, the Obamacare decision due in the next few days? That case turns on whether to read one line out of context of the rest of the statute. (Non-jargony summary of the issues here.)
Justice Kennedy, the swing vote, signed on to the formalist view in yesterday’s bankruptcy decision. On the other hand, there was less evidence that Congress intended to let the Bankruptcy bar bill for defending fee petitions than there is about the intentions of Congress in the Affordable Care Act — if, that is, you are willing to read beyond the clause at issue.