The untimely death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia over President’s Day weekend will likely alter the trajectory of any number of cases before the court.
Two of them are particularly relevant to the Tri-Counties.
In Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, the justices appeared to be closely divided on the question of whether to uphold mandatory bargaining fees paid by non-union members to public sector unions that negotiated on their behalf. The decision could impact every school district and government entity in the Tri-Counties that has collective bargaining agreements.
Scalia was widely expected to rule with a 5-4 majority that mandatory payments should be tossed out. He has long argued that all public sector jobs are political in nature and that the freedom to make or not make payments is protected speech under the First Amendment.
His death means the case is now likely to be deadlocked with a 4-4 vote, which would reverse the likely outcome and uphold a California court’s decision that bargaining fees do not violate the rights of nonunion members.
In the second case, Zubik v. Burwell, oral arguments are currently scheduled for March 23 in a case over whether religious freedom is infringed by an Obama administration rule about contraceptive coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
The case joins actions brought by seven plaintiffs, including Thomas Aquinas College of Santa Paula. They argue their religious liberties are infringed by the administration’s rule, which states that they must provide contraceptive coverage or sign a form opting out of it.
Scalia would have voted to overturn the regulation, citing First Amendment privilege. His death removes a key vote from what would likely have been another 5-4 decision.
However, in this case, appeals courts have both upheld and overturned the Obama administration’s rule. The court may resolve the issue or send it back for re-hearing.
Scalia’s death has huge implications for the presidential election, control of the Senate and the future of the high court. It also has a direct effect on two cases of great relevance to our region.
When the Business Times joined the Santa Barbara Zoo’s foster feeder program last year we were excited to accept Beauregard the Channel Islands Fox as our mascot.
We were particularly pleased with the Feb. 12 announcement that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed delisting three subspecies of the loveable creatures from the Endangered Species Act and to downgrade a fourth from endangered to threatened.
Fish and Wildlife described the proposed removal as an “historic success for the multiple partners involved in the recovery effort” and the fastest recovery for a U.S. mammal in history. The fox populations were devastated by disease but have made a remarkable recovery.
We extend congratulations to the FWS and U.S. Rep. Lois Capps, who argued for the endangered status a decade ago and all of the partners in the recovery program. We also wish continued good health to Beau and his relatives.