How Scalia’s Death Could Affect Major Supreme Court Cases in the 2015-16 Term
February 19, 2016, 3:47pm
TO BE ARGUED MARCH 2, 2016
The court will hear a challenge to a Texas law in Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole that would leave the state with about 10 abortion clinics, down from more than 40. The court has not heard a major abortion case since 2007, and this case has the potential to revise the constitutional principles governing abortion rights.
Without Justice Scalia, a 4-to-4 split would automatically affirm the appeals court’s ruling without giving reasons and without setting a precedent. In this case, that would uphold the restrictions and close all but about 10 clinics. But the Supreme Court would set no national rules, and the relevant constitutional principles would remain unchanged.
ARGUED DEC. 9, 2015
In Fisher v. University of Texas, the court will decide whether the race-conscious program used to admit students to the University of Texas at Austin violates the Constitution’s equal protection principles. The ruling could be narrow, as the Texas plan is idiosyncratic, or broad, affecting the admissions policies of most colleges and universities.
Without Justice Scalia, the case will be decided by seven members of the court, because Justice Elena Kagan has recused herself.
ARGUED NOV. 10, 2015
This class action, Tyson Foods v. Bouaphakeo, was brought by workers at a pork processing plant who said they did not get enough overtime pay for the time they spent putting on and taking off protective gear and the like. The court will decide whether the workers may rely on statistical formulas to establish what they are owed or whether they must establish damages individually.
Without Justice Scalia, a 4-to-4 tie would leave in place the workers’ victory.
TO BE ARGUED MARCH 23, 2016
In Zubik v. Burwell, the court will consider how a contraception-coverage requirement under the Affordable Care Act applies to religiously affiliated institutions like schools and hospitals. Many of them object to an accommodation offered by the Obama administration that allows them to avoid the requirement by filling out a form, saying that makes them complicit in sinful conduct.
Without Justice Scalia, a 4-to-4 tie would affirm a number of appeals court decisions, most but not all sustaining the accommodation.
ARGUMENTS NOT YET SCHEDULED
In United States v. Texas, the court will consider whether the Obama administration was entitled to shield more than four million undocumented immigrants from deportation and to allow them to work.
Without Justice Scalia, a 4-to-4 tie would result in a major loss for the administration, effectively upholding a nationwide injunction blocking the program.
ARGUED NOV. 2, 2015
In Foster v. Chatman, the court will decide whether prosecutors in Georgia violated the Constitution by systematically excluding blacks from the jury in a capital case, leaving an all-white panel to decide the fate of a black defendant accused of killing a white woman.
It is not clear how Justice Scalia’s absence will affect the case, which seemed headed for a lopsided ruling favoring the defendant until a procedural wrinkle arose at the argument.
ARGUED JAN. 11, 2016
In Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, the court will consider whether public employees who choose not to join unions may be required to pay fees for the union’s collective bargaining activities. The decision could deal a major blow to organized labor.
Without Justice Scalia, a loss for the unions is likely to be avoided, and the case will probably end in a 4-to-4 tie affirming the appeals court’s decision favoring the unions.
ARGUED DEC. 8, 2015
The court will decide the meaning of “one person, one vote” in Evenwel v. Abbott. The court has long said that state voting districts must have roughly equal populations, but it has never specified whether they should have the same number of people or the same number of eligible voters. Should the court require or allow counting only voters, the political power of districts including disproportionate numbers of unauthorized immigrants could be diminished, generally benefitting Republicans.
Without Justice Scalia, a 4-to-4 tie would affirm an appeals court ruling endorsing Texas’s approach of counting everyone.
DECIDED JAN. 12, 2016
In Hurst v. Florida, the court struck down an aspect of Florida’s capital punishment system, in which the state allowed nonunanimous juries to recommend death sentences and left the final sentencing to a judge, saying it did not give jurors a sufficient role in deciding whether defendants should be put to death.
DECIDED JAN. 25, 2016
The court ruled in Montgomery v. Louisiana that its 2012 decision banning mandatory life-without-parole sentences for juvenile killers must be applied retroactively, allowing the possibility of eventual release for hundreds of inmates now serving life sentences without the possibility of parole for murders they committed in their youth.