Supreme Court Hands Down First 4-to-4 Decision Since Antonin Scalia’s Death
Cristian Farias of The Huffington Post reports that The Supreme Court issued its first evenly split ruling since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia on Tuesday (March 29). The decision was over a minor banking case involving spouses who serve as guarantors for each other’s debts.
The ruling was handed down without divulging what justice was on which side, and the opinion was only one line long: “The judgment is affirmed by an equally divided Court” (Huff Post).
While Tuesday’s ruling did not greatly impact the nation, some upcoming cases will affect many more U.S. citizens and could potentially be split decisions. Those cases include disputes on abortion, affirmative action, public union fees, immigration and contraception coverage under the Affordable Care Act (Huff Post).
A split ruling in the upcoming abortion case would create barriers for women’s access to reproductive services, since the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has already upheld the lower-court ruling regarding Texas abortion clinic regulations (Huff Post).
Farias writes, “In the public union fees case, for example, a 4-to-4 split would be an important victory for labor, since union advocates won that case in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which skews liberal.”
More split rulings might mean the Supreme Court will decide on these issues in the future, but most likely not until Scalia’s replacement has been approved by the Senate. Merrick Garland has been nominated by President Obama as Scalia’s replacement, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell strongly opposed his decision. Obama has said that Garland “reflects the country” and is “unmatched” for its diversity (Huff Post).
Garland’s nomination was a surprise, since Obama had an opportunity to elect a judge in Scalia’s place that would, for the first time, cause the Supreme Court to not be majority white and male. Sri Srinivasan was another judge on Obama’s short list of potential candidates. In a poll by SCOTUSblog, Srinivasan won handily over the other four presumptive nominees, with 53 percent of the vote (Huff Post).
Hopefully, a new judge will be nominated to the Supreme Court soon, because, in the words of Justice Anthony Kennedy: 4-4 ties “mean that everybody’s time is wasted” (Huff Post)
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