Rebecca Friedrichs is a California teacher who objected to her teachers union’s involvement in leftist politics. Although teachers can opt out of union membership, they still must pay a collective bargaining fee. Friedichs and other teachers asked the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down this fee requirement.
When the high court heard arguments in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association in January, Justice Antonin Scalia was alive. Supporters gathered outside the court, CURE’s Star Parker among them.
“Our teachers need freedom,” Star said. “We need the Supreme Court to rule on behalf of the teachers to free them from these agency fees and from the union so that they will unlock the potential of our youth today that are trapped in failing government schools in the heart of our most critical communities, that the teachers will have the freedom to speak into the lives of these children. That they will have the freedom to use new and innovative ideas in this critical moment in our nation’s history…”
But Justice Scalia’s recent death leaves the court without a tie-breaking vote and a much-needed conservative. Today the court issued a deadlocked (4-4) ruling in Friedrichs. From the Wall Street Journal (emphasis added):
The split leaves the issue unresolved nationally, keeping in place a lower court ruling favoring unions in a case brought by the Christian Educators Association International and nine California teachers.
The court offered no detailed explanation about the outcome or vote count, saying in a one-line opinion, “The judgment is affirmed by an equally divided court.”
There was little doubt that the justices split along right/left ideological lines. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito voted against the unions; Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan sided with them.
The decision highlighted the stakes for filling the court’s vacancy, coming a few hours before President Barack Obama’s nominee—Chief Judge Merrick Garland of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit—was to have his first meeting with a Republican senator, Mark Kirk of Illinois.
The Supreme Court affirmed the lower court’s ruling with its deadlocked decision, but the court could re-hear the case after the next president appoints a ninth justice.