The saga of Chief Justice Roberts’s decision to change his mind and approve much of Obamacare continues. Previously, I mentioned the possibility that he supported the constitutionality of Obamacare out of a desire to protect his reputation, especially with liberal elites. But there are other possibilities and some of them are scarier. One possibility is that Roberts is moving to the center. That might be occurring for a variety of reasons. One is that Roberts genuinely has changed his mind on the issues. Another reason might be that he recognizes that Justice Kennedy is the most powerful justice on the Court, because of his centrism. Roberts might want more power. He might want the Court to be the Roberts Court not merely in the sense that he is the Chief Justice, but in the sense that he has significant power over its decisions.
There is actually some evidence that Roberts is moving to the center. Sebelius, the health care case, is just one part of it. Another part is that Roberts voted with the liberals in the Arizona immigration case. And yet another part is that Roberts voted with Sotomayor, Ginsberg, and Kennedy in the stolen valor case. Of course, these cases might be explained on other grounds.
I have not seen other commentators point this out, but it is a disturbing trend (whatever one’s views of the merits of these cases). June 2012 may be the month when Chief Justice Roberts first started to “grow in office.”