The Supreme Court handed down a 4-4 decision today on the Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association case which would have effectively defunded public sector unions had the court ruled against the Teachers Association.
Because the court was evenly divided by a 4-4 vote, the lower court ruling in favor of the Teachers Association has been affirmed.
In a single-sentence order, the Supreme Court announced that the judgment of a lower court rejecting this effort to defund public sector unions “is affirmed by an equally divided court.” Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association is dead. A four-decade-old opinion protecting public sector unions shall live to see another day.
There's no delicate way to say this and even if there were I probably wouldn't bother.
Justice Scalia's death saved public unions. I don't think there's any doubt that he would have ruled against public sector unions and instead of a 4-4 decision that leaves the status quo intact, we would have a 5-4 decision against unions.
It remains to be seen if this will change the political calculus of congressional Republicans who've vowed not to confirm President Obama's Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland. I don't expect it will to any significant degree because they're under the illusion that President Trump (Ha!) will nominate a justice hand-picked by the arch conservative Heritage Foundation.