The U.S. Supreme Court deadlocked in one of its highest profile cases, issuing a 4-4 ruling that lets more than 20 states continue to require public-sector workers to help fund the unions that represent them.
Union opponents had looked to be on the brink of a watershed victory that would have given workers a First Amendment right to withhold fees. Justice Antonin Scalia’s Feb. 13 death changed the dynamic, depriving that side of what probably would have been a fifth vote.
The case, which involved California teachers, could have affected as many as 5 million public-sector workers. The 4-4 split Tuesday leaves intact a 1977 ruling that said public-sector employees can be compelled to pay for representation as long as they don’t have to cover the cost of political or ideological activities.
The split may give more fuel to both sides in the debate over federal appeals court Judge Merrick Garland’s nomination. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said a shorthanded Supreme Court often won’t be able to clear up lower court disagreements.
Carrie Severino, chief counsel of the Judicial Crisis Network and an opponent of the Garland nomination, said the deadlock “demonstrates just how much rides on the next justice confirmed to the Supreme Court.”
Read more: Bloomberg