DOMA and the Mandate: Tit for Tat?

Dave Hoffman

Dave Hoffman is the Murray Shusterman Professor of Transactional and Business Law at Temple Law School. He specializes in law and psychology, contracts, and quantitative analysis of civil procedure. He currently teaches contracts, civil procedure, corporations, and law and economics.

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4 Responses

  1. Orin Kerr says:


    I disagree. Before today, I would have thought it very unlikely that a Republican DOJ wouldn’t defend the law. This creates an interesting disagreement: You think something is “basically impossible” that I think is very likely.

    Can you say a bit more about how you think this decision was made “already” and “sealed up”? Who made the decision?

  2. Dave Hoffman says:


    I am just reading the tea leaves, and the candidate’s reactions to Vinson’s maximalist decision. You are obviously closer to the key players on this than I am. But when folks like Romney praise the 10th amendment aspects of Vinson’s decision … and we see the increasingly respectful hearing that Randy gets on the Hill … I guess I become convinced that the republican primary voters are going to demand that candidates pledge that the mandate isn’t just bad policy, it is unconstitutional. If that’s the political landscape in 2013 – assuming Obama loses – then I can’t see the DOJ standing by the law. The only really comparable example would be Guantanamo, and I guess you sort of have a point there.

  3. Orin Kerr says:


    My sense is that it’s not uncommon for the legal establishment in a party to think a law is unconstitutional while the Administration of that party nonetheless dutifully defends the constitutionality of the law in court. A recent example is McCain Feingold: Everyone understood that SG Ted Olson thought it was unconstitutional, even as he stood up in Court and successfully argued to the contrary. Another example is the Ashcroft v. Al Kidd case the Supreme Court will hear next week, in which the Obama Administration is defending the Bush DOJ’s use the material witness statute for national security detentions. So I suppose the question is whether there is reason to that the next GOP President will take a different view.

  4. TJ says:


    I’m somewhere between you and Orin on this one. I think yesterday’s actions have decreased the likelihood of a future Republican administration defending the law, and it was not zero previously. In that sense I share Orin’s concerns that this increases the acrimony and tit-for-tat and politicization of DOJ.

    The more pointed note is that you seem to be practicing some “naive realism” yourself. You are not the only one, of course, but that is the broader problem: we are getting into something of a vicious cycle.