Law Students to Study Health Care Ruling

Article excerpt

The Supreme Court ruling on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is a huge learning opportunity for the next generation of lawyers who are still learning how to interpret and argue the finer points of law, constitutional law professor Andrew Spiropoulos said.

"It's going to come up all the time, all throughout the semester," said Spiropoulos, director of the Center for the Study of State Constitutional Law and Government at Oklahoma City University's law school. "It's already come up a lot. Now it's going to come up even more now that we have an opinion from the court.

"I just ran into a student yesterday as the opinion came down, and he said that now he can actually understand the news stories and the issues in a way they couldn't appreciate before," he said.

The court's ruling to uphold the constitutionality of the act, frequently referred to as Obamacare, means something very different to political pundits and health care industry analysts, law professors said. Legally, what's done is done; the justices have spoken. Now the case of National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius will quickly make its way into the textbooks as a formal reference on several points of law as it has already been discussed in classes over the two years.

"Since the act has been passed into law, it's really been my touchstone in teaching a large part of the course. Now that we have an actual opinion, it will make it even easier to use it as a teaching case, to see how and why the powers of the government are interpreted by the court," Spiropoulos said.

However, academics differ on their estimation of the impact of the ruling on class discussions and curricula. At the University of Oklahoma's law school, for example, spokeswoman Evelyn Holzer conveyed Associate Dean Michael Scaperlanda's position: "He didn't feel that the latest activities in the decision yesterday will really throw us for a loop, curriculum-wise or schedule-wise. ... I don't think it's going to be a distraction either," she said.

At the University of Tulsa's law school, constitutional law professor Gary Allison said, "It will be brought up. …