California Teacher’s Bid to End Union Dues Thwarted by Supreme Court Deadlock

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The U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., is shown on Nov. 6, 2013. (Credit: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

A well-planned legal assault on public unions collapsed Tuesday when the Supreme Court deadlocked over a California woman’s lawsuit to strike down mandatory fees, the strongest evidence yet that Justice Antonin Scalia’s death has stymied the court’s conservatives.

The 4-4 split keeps in place a 1970s-era rule that authorizes unions to require municipal employees, teachers, college instructors and transit workers to pay a “fair share fee” to help cover the cost of collective bargaining.

The tie vote, widely expected after Scalia’s death, nevertheless came as a relief to union officials who feared the conservative justices were on the brink of striking down the pro-union law as a violation of free speech.

In another sign Tuesday that the high court continues to grapple with the vacancy left by Scalia, justices asked for additional briefings in a pending dispute over the Obama administration’s contraceptive mandate under the Affordable Care Act.

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