Aside from some of last week’s less publicized but significant conservative victories on the Supreme Court in cases involving Clean Air regulations and the death penalty, its latest term ended with a couple of signs of trouble in orders for cases it will hear next year. I discussed them briefly at Washington Monthly:
One involves a racial gerrymandering complaint from Arizona Republicans which could create new problems for what is left of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Another, and the one that got a lot of horrified reaction from progressives today, is a case designed to enable SCOTUS to overturn a precedent benefiting public employee unions.
The case, brought by California teachers at odds with the California Teachers Association union, is aimed at generating a decision that would deem any required payment of fees by non-union members in a public employment setting a compelled “political” expenditure that violates the non-member’s First Amendment rights.
I’m not as sure as some commentators that this would be the end of the road for public-sector unions. It would, unless I’m missing something, put them in the same position as private-sector unions in a “right-to-work” state–forced to put up with “free riders” who cannot be required to help support the collective bargaining efforts from which they benefit in compensation and working conditions. That’s not a good position. But it’s more another unfair burden than a death sentence.
Both actions today are a pretty good indication that the talk of a “left-leaning” Roberts Court is premature, particularly when it comes to anything that directly handicaps the Republican Party or helps workers.
A much more ambivalent signal came from an order to suspend enforcement of a notorious Texas statute aimed at restricting the availability of abortion services via phony “health” regulations. The four Justices traditionally opposed to abortion rights all voted against the order. But it also could pave the way for the long-awaited Supreme Court review of “health”-based abortion restrictions on which one of the five Justices supporting the order, Anthony Kennedy, has already flipped to the dark side.