Hold on. The high-stakes Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association case before the U.S. Supreme Court isn’t quite a done deal yet.
The libertarian-leaning Center for Individual Rights, which is representing the plaintiff teachers in the case, says that if the court splits 4-4, it will file a motion to rehear the case when a new justice is appointed to replace Antonin Scalia, who died suddenly last weekend.
Friedrichs tests whether CTA can require payment from teachers it represents in contract talks. The justices could support the status quo or issue a ruling that only changes payments to CTA. Union leaders everywhere fear, however, a broader decision that would squeeze their own treasuries and diminish public labor’s political clout at all levels of government.
Before the 79-year-old Scalia’s sudden death in Texas last weekend, many court observers believed he would be part of a 5-4 majority that would end so-called “agency” or “fare-share” union fees. Now conventional wisdom is that the court will split evenly, thus keeping the lower court’s ruling in favor of CTA and the fees in place.
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Terry Pell, president of the center, said in a press statement that needs to be “settled after full deliberation, not as the result of the tragic and untimely death of one Justice. Friedrichs needs to be heard and decided by a full Court.”
The court also could decide on its own to rehear the case once a ninth justice is sworn in. Either way, according to the center, a rehearing during the court’s next term would put off resolution until sometime in 2017.