U.S. Supreme Court

How Scalia's death could affect pending high-profile cases

  • Print.

The death of Justice Antonin Scalia on Saturday leaves the U.S. Supreme Court without a conservative majority and has the potential to affect several high-profile cases.

Scalia’s absence has the potential to affect six big cases on the court’s docket, report the New York Times and USA Today. If there is a 4-4 split, the lower appeals court ruling would be left in place—though the court could decide to order the cases reargued after a new justice is confirmed, according to the Times and SCOTUSblog.

The Times and USA Today highlight these cases:

Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. The case challenges mandatory union contributions for public employees. The likely outcome is a 4-4 split, which “would be a major victory for the liberal justices and public unions,” the Times says.

Evenwel v. Abbott. At issue is whether the size of state legislative districts should be based on eligible voters or the overall population. A 4-4 split would leave in place an appeals decision upholding Texas’ practice of counting everyone.

Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, a challenge to Texas abortion restrictions. Scalia’s absence “may have no consequence” if abortion rights groups are correct in their optimism stemming from a court stay that partially blocked the restrictions, the Times reports.

Zubik v. Burwell, a religious-liberty challenge to the opt-out procedure to the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate. Six other cases are consolidated with Zubik, and lower courts are divided.

United States v. Texas. The case challenges President’s Barack Obama’s executive action to expanding deportation deferrals. A tie would leave in place an injunction blocking the program.

Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, which challenges the use of race in admissions at the university. Justice Elena Kagan has recused herself in the case, leading to the possibility of a 4-3 vote. It’s possible the university will lose on narrow grounds, the Times says. “Fisher, then, is the sole case in which Justice Scalia’s death eliminated rather than created the possibility of a tie,” according to the newspaper.

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.