Final Twist for SCOTUS

Don’t know about you, but without checking I assumed the Supreme Court’s October 2014 Term had ended yesterday with the last decisions on tap. But no: the Court stayed in session one more day and issued five more orders granting certioari for cases to be heard in the next Term.

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 Repubican Party or helps workers.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.