The Supreme Court lost its longest-serving justice with the death of Antonin Scalia on Saturday, and now it appears that several upcoming court cases could result in an evenly split decision.
"Until a new justice is confirmed, it is very likely that many cases during the current term will end in 4-4 ties; when that happens, the decision of the lower court is affirmed without creating a precedent," FiveThirtyEight wrote
Gathered below are five major issues before the Supreme Court that are likely to be dramatically impacted by the leading conservative's passing.
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— "At issue is the recent Texas state law requiring any abortion facility to meet standards tantamount to those of a hospital, and requiring the doctors to have admitting privileges at a hospital within close proximity. These conditions have already forced many abortion clinics in the state to close," NPR reported
of Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt. If swing-voter Justice Kennedy sides with conservatives, the case will split 4-4, and the lower court ruling upholding the abortion restrictions will stand. If Kennedy goes the other way, it will split 5-3, and Scalia's absence will not have mattered.
2. Religious rights and contraception
— In the Priests for Life v. Burwell case, petitioners are trying to expand the religious exemption from Obamacare's contraception coverage mandate. The exemption currently pertains to churches, however the petitioners want to expand it to religiously affiliated schools, hospitals, nonprofits, and charities. Scalia was expected to tip the decision in favor of religious exemptions, however the ruling could now split. According to The Washington Post
, many appeals courts found in favor of the Obama administration, but not all, meaning a split decision would result in different regions being governed by the differing outcomes.
3. Union dues
— "Public sector labor unions had been bracing for a stinging defeat in a lawsuit over whether they can collect fees from government workers who choose not to join the union," The Associated Press reported
of Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. "The case affects more than 5 million workers in 23 states and Washington, D.C., and seeks to overturn a nearly 40-year-old Supreme Court decision. Now, what seemed like a certain 5-4 split, with the conservatives in the majority and the liberals in dissent, instead looks like a tie that would be resolved in favor of the unions, because they won in the lower courts."
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4. Obama's executive action on immigration
— "President Obama's executive actions to extend 'deferred deportation' to more immigrants now in the country illegally was immediately controversial when issued late in 2014. A federal district judge in Texas said the order violated the Administrative Procedure Act, and a three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit Court upheld that ruling," NPR reported, referring to the U.S. v. Texas case. "If the vote is 4-4, the 5th Circuit decision will stand. It would not, however, have the same power of precedent regarding presidential authority that a definitive ruling by a majority of the justices would have."
5. Affirmative action
— In the case of Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, it's possible that "the conservatives may still prevail 4-3" without Scalia because the reliably liberal Justice Elana Kagan recused herself from deliberation, NPR reported. The case looks at the admissions process at The University of Texas at Austin. Most freshmen are admitted from the top 10 percent of their graduating high school class, however it also reserves space for students who don't meet this criteria, but do offer racial diversity to the incoming student body.
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