Praise and Reviews for Unprecedented


The Wall Street Journal



“From being at the right place at the right time and by dint of prodigious effort, Josh Blackman got the inside scoop on the constitutional case of the century, which he now shares with all of us. Combining information gleaned from his extensive interviews with the principals with his constitutional expertise as a scholar, Blackman is able to describe the litigation strategies of the parties and explain the sometimes confusing constitutional doctrines raised by the case in language anyone can understand. Even those who were deeply involved in the litigation stand to learn from his evenhanded exposition. I know I have. Unprecedented is the definitive account of the historic constitutional challenge to Obamacare.”

—RANDY E. BARNETT, Carmack Waterhouse Professor of Legal Theory, and director of the Georgetown Center for the Constitution, Georgetown University Law Center



balkin“The story of the legal challenge to Obamacare is one of the most remarkable in the nation’s history, and Josh Blackman’s fascinating new book takes us through its many twists and turns with masterful aplomb. Blackman’s narrative never flags as he guides us through the ins and outs of litigation strategy and constitutional argument. This is an absorbing tale of how a landmark Supreme Court opinion was born.”

—JACK M. BALKIN, Knight Professor of Constitutional Law and the First Amendment, Yale Law School



Tribe“This will surely be recognized as the definitive account of the convoluted litigation leading up to the Supreme Court’s historic ruling on the Affordable Care Act and of what that ruling might portend for the future. It’s a rare combination of a page-turner and a careful explanation of the legal arguments—all the more remarkable because it comes from someone who played a role in developing the challenge to the Act and thus is anything but a disinterested observer. This is as good an example as we are likely to see of a head-to-toe dissection of a still living legal specimen.”

LAURENCE H. TRIBE, Carl M. Loeb University Professor and Professor of Constitutional Law, Harvard Law School





-Fred Barnes, The Weekly Standard




kirkusA young legal scholar delivers an impressive blow-by-blow account of the court battle to defeat the Affordable Care Act . . . Blackman provides a helpful legislative history underlying Obamacare’s enactment, charting the major parties’ shameless shifting of positions on the individual mandate, and he explores the extralegal machinations surrounding the litigation. He focuses, though, on the court duel, the uncommon 26-state coalition opposing the law, the tortuous progress of the health care cases through the lower courts, and the noteworthy three days and over six hours the Supreme Court devoted to oral argument in NFIB v. Sebelius. Employing a theory roundly ridiculed before any litigation began, the plaintiffs argued that neither the Commerce nor the Necessary and Proper Clause permitted the government to require individuals to purchase health care insurance. Remarkably, a majority of the court agreed, but in an opinion worthy of the wily John Marshall, the chief justice found the law constitutional under the government’s power to tax. As the implications of John Roberts’ controversial opinion play out in the court’s future jurisprudence and as the realities of Obamacare’s provisions unfold in our daily lives, historians will look to this wild and, yes, unprecedented moment, when legal experts seriously wrangled over whether the federal government could require a citizen to buy broccoli. With his strong connections among the conservative and libertarian lawyers who mounted the constitutional challenge and his talent for translating arcane legal-speak, Blackman more than capably captures this dramatic constitutional showdown.”

– Kirkus Reviews


booklist“Blackman argues that the process was unprecedented in many ways, including the nature of the legislation to compel citizens to buy insurance, the legal arguments for and against, and the political pressure brought to bear on the Left and the Right. He details the political machinations behind the Supreme Court decision in favor of the health-care program, particularly pressure on Roberts. Blackman also explores the significance of the decision as a galvanizing issue for conservatives and future implications for challenges to government power.”

-Vanessa Bush, Booklist


“It provides a granular account of how the legal – and political – battle over the Affordable Care Act was joined, and how so much about the fight departed from past pattern . . .  [Blackman]  is a bit of a legal polymath. He can, with seeming ease, assimilate disparate streams of legal analyses, facts, political events, and government policy in service of his arguments.”

Chris Mondics, Philadelphia Inquirer