A federal judge on Tuesday expressed concern over President Obama’s comments on the Supreme Court’s consideration of the health-care law and demanded a letter explaining whether Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. believes federal judges have the authority to strike down federal laws.
Judge Jerry Smith, a Republican appointee on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, was part of a three-judge panel hearing arguments in a lawsuit over the Affordable Care Act when he issued his unusual demand, saying the Justice Department must submit the three-page, single-spaced letter by noon Thursday, according to a lawyer who was in the courtroom. The demand was first reported by CBS News.
The lawyer said Smith cited Obama’s statements Monday, when in unusually blunt language, the president said overturning the law would amount to an “unprecedented, extraordinary step” of judicial activism.
The judge “said the president has been saying that unelected branches of government shouldn’t be activist and strike down federal laws,’’ according to the lawyer, who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid antagonizing either side.