The House of Representative has chosen law professor Jonathan Turley to represent it in a lawsuit against the Obama administration. The suit challenges changes the administration made to Obamacare without congressional authorization.
The hiring of Turley has been praised by some conservatives because Turley is a liberal. He voted for Obama in 2008, supports national health care, and so forth.
Turley’s status as a liberal may, indeed, be one reason why the Republican House hired him. The leadership may believe that having Turley on the case dispels the view that the lawsuit is a partisan crusade.
I very much doubt that courts are influenced at all by the political leanings of the advocates before them. Thus, it would make no sense to select counsel because he is “against type.”
In any event, Turley’s representation in this case does not cast him against type. The issue raised by the House’s suit is the proper scope of the executive power. Turley is an extremist on this issue — he believes in severely restricting presidential power.
This first became clear during the Bush years, when Turley became a hero of the left, and a constant presence on such shows such as Keith Olbermann’s and Rachel Maddow’s, by consistently claiming that the president’s counter-terrorism efforts were lawless and unconstitutional. Turley went so far as to accuse Bush of committing war crimes and advocated prosecuting top administration officials for their approval of harsh interrogation techniques.
It’s not surprising, therefore, that Turley takes the much less controversial stance of opposing Obama’s unilateral rewriting of Obamacare. And it’s doubtful that a court — or for that matter anyone who closely follows the legal scene — will be impressed by the fact that this particular liberal is siding with Republicans on this matter. Indeed, we can only hope that Turley’s extremism on the subject of executive power will not infect his legal arguments in a case where taking an extreme position should not be required.
Turley must be commended for his consistency. Unlike so many liberals, he’s clearly a man of principle whose view of the proper scope of executive power doesn’t change based on which party controls the White House.
But Turley’s willingness to represent the Republicans doesn’t show that Obama has gone too far in usurping the rights of Congress (though Obama has). And the House’s selection of Turley doesn’t show that it is taking a reasonable position (though it is).
If anything, Speaker Boehner’s selection of Turley seems too clever by half.