Now that there are only eight justices, there will be some serious implications on the decisions of the Supreme Court when it comes to this term’s cases. There are some big issues before the SCOTUS, a few of which are going to be in limbo for a while if the GOP carries through with their threat to deny any appointment President Obama makes.
These cases have already been argued: Evenwel v. Abbott –which is the “one person, one vote” case — Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, (affirmative action in college enrollment), Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association (union dues) and Whole Women’s Health v. Cole, which deals with abortion restrictions. Several more, including the Burwell cases, which deal with the contraceptive mandate and the Religious Freedom Act, are scheduled for Feb. 22 and March 21.
Scalia’s votes in cases that haven’t been decided publicly are now void. Unless it was inconsequential, say he were in the minority or the majority was more than five. Those cases will now be decided by the eight-member court.
If Scalia was in a five-justice majority, for example, the Friedrichs case, the court is now divided. This kicks the case back down to the lower court, whose decision stands. It will be as though the SCOTUS never heard the case. Evenwel v. Abbot may also be equally divided as may the Burwell cases.
The abortion case may also be divided though experts believe the Court will strike those restrictive provisions down. If that’s the case, the SCOTUS will still rule on it, just with 8 justices and a majority among them. The affirmative action case will not include Justice Kagan, who recused herself. So there is a 7-justice panel there which will likely limit affirmative action. The Court may also decide to avoid rulings on other cases or decide them on technicalities.
The next 10 months will be exciting as we watch the nomination process. The Republicans will, of course, block every and anyone President Obama puts before them. But, since this is an election year, that may very well work against them The Democrats could push the issue and finally claim a majority. If so, it will be delicious.
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