Observers have said that Republican refusal to hold hearings on a new Supreme Court justice to replace the late Antonin Scalia would result in a number of cases likely being decided in the liberal direction. The court’s ruling in a case involving organized labor suggests that opinion may be correct.
On March 29 the court deadlocked 4-4 on a case involving public sector unions. The case, known as Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association involved a challenge by a group of California school teachers who objected to paying “fair share” union dues. Fair share laws require non-union members to contribute to the cost of negotiating collective bargaining contracts since non-members work under those contracts and receive the benefits negotiated on their behalf.
According to CNN, there are some 40 years of precedent behind fair share laws. That precedent was certainly involved when the lower court ruled against the plaintiffs. But as we know from prior decisions such as Citizens United, the Roberts court doesn’t seem to consider itself bound by precedent. The direction of the questioning during oral arguments, which took place before the death of Scalia, suggested to court watchers that the justices were prepared to throw out precedent once again and re-write public law.
But with the deadlock, the lower court decision stands. It is unlikely that hearings could have been held quickly enough for President Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland to have joined in the opinion on this case. But this is just one case out of several due to be decided over the next few months that will likely wind up in the favor of liberals because of a deadlocked court.
Republicans are so blatantly interested in removing any evidence that Barack Obama did anything at all for the country, that they are apparently willing to sacrifice some of the cases involving their constituent groups in order to prevent him from placing his third nominee on the court. After all, that would tie Obama with
God Ronald Reagan in the number of justices he appointed, and we certainly can’t have that!
While it is true that in recent years the justices appointed by both Democrats and Republicans have been largely faithful to the party line, there have been surprises. The moderate to liberal justices, John Paul Stevens and David Souter, were appointed by Republican presidents. The relatively conservative Byron White was appointed by Democrat John F. Kennedy. President Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland is probably about as conservative as the GOP will get out of a Democratic president.
But Mitch McConnell appears ready to take his chances that the GOP will regain the White House. He seems willing to see his side lose a bunch of cases as he drags his feet, hoping that President Trump, Cruz or Kasich will appoint a conservative justice who can be approved by a Republican controlled Senate. At this time, polls suggest that neither of those outcomes is likely.
In the meantime, liberals are poised to win a handful of cases that they were set to lose, and possibly even wind up with an eventual replacement for Scalia who will be solidly to the left of Garland. It’s no wonder Republicans are so in love with guns — they seem to enjoy constantly shooting themselves in the foot.
Here’s a report from CNN:
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