Supreme Court Tie Means That Public Sector Agency Shop Fees Are Still Lawful

March 30, 2016

By: Jacqueline A. Smith

On March 29, 2016, the Supreme Court issued a one sentence opinion in the highly publicized case of Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, stating “[t]he judgment is affirmed by an equally divided Court.”  This outcome was not unexpected after the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia left the Supreme Court with eight remaining Justices.  This split decision means that public sector agency shop fees are still lawful, and that state statutes authorizing agency shop fee arrangements (including New York's Taylor Law) remain constitutional. Although the Supreme Court has issued an opinion, it seems that this case is far from over.  In a press release issued on the day of the decision, the President of the Center for Individual Rights (the public interest law firm that originally brought the case on behalf of the petitioners), Terry Pell, stated, “We believe this case is too significant to let a split decision stand and we will file a petition for re-hearing with the Supreme Court.”  Considering the significance of this issue, it appears likely that a petition for re-hearing will be granted once another Supreme Court Justice is appointed and confirmed.