For Princetonians in Washington, it was a pretty good week. Martin Gruenberg ’75, President Barack Obama’s pick to head the FDIC, finally removed the word “interim” from his job title after the Senate approved his nomination, and two alumni received nominations for new federal posts – Patricia Falcone ’74 in the Office of Science and Technology Policy; and Douglas Griffiths *00 as ambassador to Mozambique.
But the top headliner was Washington-based lawyer H. Bartow Farr III ’66, who played a key role in the closely watched Supreme Court case examining Obama’s 2010 health care law.
Farr’s charge was to argue in favor of upholding the remaining provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, even if the Supreme Court strikes down the disputed health care mandate. The day after Farr’s argument on this “severability” question, a New York Times editorial found his stance to be a compelling one:
“As Mr. Farr made clear, the fate of the mandate should not determine the survival of the other elements of the law — like prohibiting insurers from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions or charging them higher fees — which can operate without the mandate.”
D.C.-area colleague Joseph Onek told The National Law Journal that Farr is a “lawyer’s lawyer, not a political lawyer or even a Washington lawyer,” adding that Farr was determined not to be swayed by political agendas as he prepared his arguments. Farr has argued 30 cases in the Supreme Court, according to the Law Journal article.
Audio: Listen to an excerpt of Farr’s exchange with the Supreme Court justices, published by The Washington Post.