The Supreme Court has only been in session without Justice Antonin Scalia for a week. But already, his death is affecting cases, and particularly decisions not to take certain cases to the Supreme Court without the guarantee of his vote.
Last week, Dow Chemical made headlines by opting for a $835 million settlement in a class action lawsuit rather than risk having the case heard by a Scalia-less Supreme Court. A lower court had already ruled against the company for allegedly conspiring to fix prices for industrial chemicals, and prior to the settlement, Dow had appealed to the Supreme Court to overturn the ruling.
In the absence of Scalia’s vote, taking the case to the eight other justices risked the company not just a loss in the specific case, but the potential for a broader ruling that would have put companies in a tougher position in future class action lawsuits.
The current court line-up “increased the likelihood for unfavorable outcomes for business involved in class action suits,” Dow said in a statement Friday, according to the AP.
But it’s not just corporate interests that are quickly recalibrating their legal strategy with the loss of Scalia. A guns right groups decided to forgo a Supreme Court petition last week because the court had lost its conservative tilt.
The New York State Rifle and Pistol Association announced Thursday it would not petition the court to overturn an appeals court decision upholding a New York gun control law.
In a statement on its website, the group argued that currently there are “only four justices committed to a proper understanding of the Second Amendment,” and pointed out that a 4-4 decision would let the appeals court ruling against them stand. There was also the possibility, the statement said, that “in the absence of Justice Scalia’s influence,” there would be a majority of justices that would actually affirm the lower court’s decision, which would create a national precedent for courts to uphold similar gun control laws.
“Merely losing this issue in the Supreme Court, as bad as that would be, is not the worst that could happen if we were to seek Supreme Court review now,” the statement said.