Sunday, 14 Feb 2016 11:43 PM
As the nation and official Washington prepared to mourn the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, watchers of the high court began to assess the immediate impact of his death on several pending cases whose decisions might have had momentous political implications.
Among these is Friedrichs v. California Teacher’s Association, set to have been a landmark case regarding the mandatory collection of union dues and their use for political purposes. The ruling could have meant the death knell of collective bargaining and the political might of America’s unions.
After oral arguments in the case in January, The Washington Post indicated the court’s conservative majority, including Scalia, were leaning to rule against the unions ability to collect mandatory dues.
But Scalia’s passing – and the news that the Republic-led Senate will likely not confirm an Obama nominee — means such cases could up with 4-4 decisions. Lacking a majority, the lower court’s rulings will stand.
In the Friedrichs case, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled in favor of the teacher’s union.
Had the Supreme Court ruled that union dues could not be used for political purposes, it would have dealt a major blow to one of the Democratic party’s most powerful assets.
Another key case is U.S. v. Texas, in which opponents challenged the legality of the president’s executive orders dealing with illegal immigrants.
Signs are now strong that it will be decided at the lower court level and the Supreme Court will not deal with it.
Supreme court experts suggest that Chief Justice John Roberts could potentially push through rulings in cases like Friedrichs, where oral arguments were heard, using Scalia’s vote.
“Supreme Court justices take a vote on a case at their meetings that they hold immediately after oral argument,” Hans von Spakovsky, Senior Legal Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, told Newsmax, “So on cases that have already been argued, even if no opinion has been written yet, the chief justice has an obligation to include Justice Scalia’s vote in those cases.”
But, he added, “unfortunately, in other cases where no vote has yet been taken, we may get tied votes — which means the lower court decisions will stand. That means that a number of controversial issues will have to be brought back to the court in new cases when there are nine justices.”
Not all legal experts agree with the view Roberts could issue a decision using Scalia’s vote.
“Unless a justice is sitting at the court at the time of argument and at the time the decision is issued, the justice’s vote doesn’t count,” Samuel Bagenstos, a University of Michigan Law Professor who clerked for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, told NBC News.