Shorthanded after the February death of Justice Antonin Scalia, the Supreme Court divided 4-4 on Tuesday and handed a significant victory to public unions, although at the time of oral argument it had appeared ready to decide the other way, The New York Times reported.
In the case from California, an appeals court said public school teachers who declined to join unions still must pay fees for union activity, such as negotiating for higher wages and benefits. The Supreme Court said it affirmed the ruling by an equally divided court; the decision thus sets no precedent. The teachers who brought the court case contended their speech rights were violated.
“It was the most important case yet in which the eight-member court was unable to reach a decision,” The Washington Post reported. The ruling came Senate Republican leaders maintained their blockade against considering Judge Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nominee for the vacancy.
News coverage and commentary included the following: Washington Post, “Senate Democrats propose April hearings, May votes on Garland confirmation”; NBC News, “16 GOP Senators Back Meeting With Obama’s SCOTUS Pick”; Politico, “GOP court blockade gets frosty reception in conservative country”; and Minneapolis Star Tribune, “Ed Board: U.S. Senate’s judicial stalling harms federal courts.”