Supreme Court

Unions, Abortion, Obamacare: 3 Supreme Court Cases to Watch in 2016

The 2015-2016 SCOTUS term heats back up.

|

Credit: White House / Flickr.com

Next week the U.S. Supreme Court will return from its winter break and resume hearing oral arguments. What's next on the docket? Here are three important cases to watch as the Supreme Court's 2015-2016 term heats back up.

Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association

On January 11 the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. At issue is whether the Court should overrule a 1977 precedent known as Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, a case in which the Court famously upheld a Michigan law that forced public-school teachers to pay the equivalent of union dues to the teachers union regardless of whether or not those teachers were union members. To say the least, Abood was a significant victory for public-sector unions.

Friedrichs places Abood squarely on the chopping block. According to lead petitioner Rebecca Friedrichs, a California school teacher, the state's mandatory union-fee scheme violates her First Amendment rights by compelling her to subsidize political speech that she disagrees with. "Just as the government cannot compel political speech or association generally," Friedrichs and her lawyers told the Court, "it cannot mandate political speech or association as a condition of employment." The California Teachers Association takes a different view, insisting that all teachers in the state, including even non-members like Friedrichs, benefit from its collective bargaining activities. If Friedrichs and others like her aren't forced to pony up, the union maintains, they would become the quintessential "free riders."

Whole Woman's Health v. Cole

The incendiary issue of abortion returns to the Supreme Court on March 2. That day the Court will hear oral arguments in Whole Woman's Health v. Cole, a case that considers the constitutionality of a Texas law that threatens to close all but a handful of the state's abortion clinics in the name of public health.

Whole Woman's Health centers on two provisions from a 2013 Texas statute known as H.B. 2. The first provision requires all abortion clinics in the Lone Star State to maintain or upgrade their facilities in order to meet the same standards required of ambulatory surgical centers. The second provision requires all physicians who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at local hospitals.

Are these valid health and safety requirements, as the state maintains, or are they regulatory pretexts designed to throw abortion providers out of business, as Whole Woman's Health maintains? The Supreme Court will issue its decision by late June.

Zubik v. Burwell

Last but certainly not least of the big cases to watch in 2016 is Zubik v. Burwell. This one is actually seven consolidated cases that ask whether the Obama administration's plan for accommodating certain religious objections to Obamacare's so-called contractive mandate is itself a violation of religious liberty. As I noted back in November:

In the most well-known of [the seven consolidated cases], Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged v. Burwell, a nonprofit organization of Catholic nuns maintains that the Obama administration has violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act by requiring the Little Sisters "to comply [with Obamacare], either directly or by executing documents that authorize and obligate others to use the Little Sisters' healthcare plans to accomplish the 'seamless' provision of contraceptive coverage."

In other words, although the federal government has exempted the Little Sisters from providing contraceptive coverage directly to its employees, the Little Sisters object to the fact that it is nonetheless required to file paperwork that results in that same contraceptive coverage being provided by a third-party. In the view of the Little Sisters, any involvement in facilitating such contraceptive coverage is tantamount to being involved in facilitating abortion.

Zubik will be the fourth time in five years that the Supreme Court hears a legal challenge to the Patient Protection and Affordable Case Act. The record so far? Obamacare: 2. Challengers: 1. Oral arguments in Zubik have not yet been scheduled.

NEXT: Donald Trump Puts His Ridiculous Campaign Promises in TV Ad Form

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. The incendiary issue of abortion returns to the Supreme Court on March 2. That day the Court will hear oral arguments in Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole, a case that considers the constitutionality of a Texas law that threatens to close all but a handful of the state’s abortion clinics in the name of public health.

    I think I’ve solved the whole problem.

    1. Oral abortions?

      1. The weaponized hickey.

        1. Nice band name.

        2. Ugh. I had to witness a sister of a friend draw a pentagram on her boyfriend’s chest in hickeys. About halfway through her gums started bleeding. She’s laughing about it, bloody teeth, running down her chin. He passed out before she finished.

          1. Sure, you “had” to watch. Like Alex in a Clockwork Orange.

            1. It was a party in an attic rec room. We all ended up watching at some point. Got over my crush on his sister, at least.

              1. +1 corpse flower in the attic

              2. Nothing in this story surprises me.

                1. We begin to see wherefrom his fiction springs.

                  1. I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe.

                    1. … Pentagram hickeys on some guy’s chest. I watched cum stains glitter in the dark near the Doomcock Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears…in…rain. Time to die.

                    2. … Pentagram hickeys on some guy’s chest. I watched cum stains glitter in the dark near the Doomcock Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears…in…rain. Time to die.

                    3. Apparently the skwirrlz are fans of poorly executed Blade Runner references.

  2. :At issue is whether the Court should overrule a 1977 precedent known as Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, a case in which the Court famously upheld a Michigan law that forced public-school teachers to pay the equivalent of union dues to the teachers union regardless of whether or not those teachers were union members. ”

    – Roberts: “It’s a tax. Next case.”

    1. That response would work for most of the cases he hears, wouldn’t it?

      1. “Penaltax, bitchez!!”

      2. “It’s a tax” will soon join “interstate commerce” as the goto justifications for any and all federal government overreaches.

        1. The magic incantations that cancel the rest of the constitution.

          1. Does anyone else hear “Its a tax” being said in Admiral Ackbar’s voice?

  3. The California Teachers Association takes a different view, insisting that all teachers in the state, including even non-members like Friedrichs, benefit from its collective bargaining activities. If Friedrichs and others like her aren’t forced to pony up, the union maintains, they would become the quintessential “free riders.”

    I am fascinated by the implications of a ruling that a “free rider” can be compelled to pay you. To take one example:

    I bring a lawsuit which results in a ruling that, say, a minimum wage law is overturned. Can I now send bills to every business in the state, on the grounds that they are “free riders” on my lawsuit, and since they have benefited from it, they have to pay me?

    1. No, because this principle only applies to union dues, because FYTW.

    2. Or how about every net tax beneficiary?

    3. I cannot tell if you are trolling. You likely are. Regardless…

      It’s not similar. Not at all.

      A union has a collective bargaining agreement with one employer that authorizes only the union to negotiate wages and benefits on behalf of anybody filling certain classes of employment, while minimum wage laws are state mandates that generally apply to all employers.

      Beyond adherence to a mandate of the state, there is no similarity between the employers for your anti-minimum wage crusader to claim they have received a “free ride”.

      1. How the free ride happens is less important than whether there is a free ride, does it not? We are talking about principles that are supposed to apply generally here; that is the essence of rule of law.

        What is the principled difference between a “free ride” consisting of an employee who gets more money due to a union, and an employer who gets more profit because of my lawsuit?

        1. What is the principled difference between a “free ride” consisting of an employee who gets more money due to a union, and an employer who gets more profit because of my lawsuit?

          Unions good, m’kay?

        2. What amuses me is that the entire left/liberal worldview is devoted to the welfare state, which positively celebrates and encourages “free riders.” But when it comes to union dues, suddenly free riders are a critical problem.

          1. What amuses me is that the entire left/liberal worldview is devoted to the welfare state, which positively celebrates and encourages “free riders.”

            Every time I hear that “the rich don’t pay their fair share”, I think of the nontrivial double-digit percentage of people who literally pay no taxes on net (it’s not quite “47%” since there are taxes other than Federal income tax). Where is their “fair share”?

          2. That was another fun aspect of the Obamacare debate. The same people who agitate for socialized medicine had to defend PPACA with, “People need to buy insurance, or else they’re just free riders!”

  4. It will be interesting to see if the court strikes down states placing regulatory burdens on abortion, while simultaneously allowing states to place regulatory burdens on the Second Amendment. I’m sure the reasoning will boil down to FYTW.

    1. Well, they will allow pretty much any regulatory burden on “the right of the people peaceably to assemble”, so why not allow it everywhere else? Oh, right, FYTW.

      1. Yeah, they no longer even pretend to care if their “reasoning” is consistent from one case to the next.

  5. Unions, abortion, Obamacare: these are a few of my favorite things.

    1. What if we abort the unions supporting Obamacare?

  6. “Just as the government cannot compel … association generally,”

    What country has she been living in?

    1. She is blissfully unaware of Christian bakers.

      1. And PPACA.

        1. And the entire concept of a state. And family law.

    2. What country has she been living in?

      Somalia?

  7. Are these valid health and safety requirements, as the state maintains, or are they regulatory pretexts designed to throw abortion providers out of business, as Whole Woman’s Health maintains?

    It doesn’t seem like that onerous of a requirement even, but I am not a doctor. Of course, most legislators aren’t either, so I am forced to wonder how much research they did before creating this requirement. Hell, for all I know, the requirements for the ambulatory surgical clinics are over the top.

    1. If unproven “public safety” arguments can be used to allow burdens on the 2nd amendment, I don’t see how they aren’t just as valid for placing burdens on abortion. Not that I agree with it in either case.

      1. FYTW . . . come on!

      2. Yeah, I consider myself moderately pro-choice. But, if people are going to claim that the state has the authority to regulate medical care providers (and I don’t see much evidence that there’s some sort of groundswell of support to change that, even though I don’t think it should have that power), it’s hard to see where abortion providers are somehow sacrosanct. It’s either a form of medical care or it’s not. And thanks to the tireless work of feminists to ensure that it is considered medical care for health insurance purposes, I’d say we have to consider abortionists to be medical care providers subject to the government’s dictates just as much as any other medical care provider.

        It’s a shitty law. But, if you’re going to buy into shitty premises, don’t be surprised when you get shitty conclusions.

      3. The reasoning protecting abortion has never been applied to anything outside of “reproductive choice” and even in that realm it has been pretty narrowly applied.

        The only privacy you have, apparently, is with a provider of abortion or contraception.

    2. Nearly all clinics in Texas will close if this requirement is enforced.

      Considering this is a brand new requirement the clinics were not subject to before (and there seemed to be no health crisis as a result of these clinics not having these things), it is in effect onerous.

      To me, it is the worst kind of regulation: forcing new requirements on preexisting businesses that force them to close their doors without any apparent need for the new requirements.

      1. Yet such requirements have been imposed on gun stores all over the country, with nary a Constitutional quibble.

        1. But . . . guns kill people. Abortions just remove unwanted clumps of stuff. Totally different.

          1. Part of me hopes they uphold this regulation so that the progressives will have to feast on their own medicine. Then, I realize that progressives don’t give a shit about principles or consistent rulings and will completely fail to see the irony in their positions.

            For progressives, it really does boil down to “abortions good, guns bad.” (or pick any other pet issues). Anything beyond that is just their own echo-chamber justification.

      2. With all due respect, businesses get forced to close all the time due to new regulations. It’s hard to see why just abortionists are special.

    3. Are these valid health and safety requirements, as the state maintains, or are they regulatory pretexts designed to throw abortion providers out of business, as Whole Woman’s Health maintains?

      They’re regulatory pretexts. It’s unfortunate that abortion is the one and only place the left can figure this out.

  8. Global markets down. NPR reports that China’s manufacturing sector showed major weakness for the Christmas season, usually its strongest. So… China’s “pulling the world markets down”. News flash, NPR Twinkie: China’s manufacturing slowdown IS OUR manufacturing slowdown.

    1. So have we entered an era where there are no economic recoveries? We just flip-flop between a weak economy and a recessive economy?

    2. Here comes the pain. It’s quite possible that China gets a little bit of “civil disobedience” as their financial markets come apart at the seams.

    3. And if anyone doesn’t think that the increasing tensions between the Saudis and Iran aren’t at least an indirect effort to boost oil prices, well….

      1. “NO BLOOD FOR OIL!!11!!!!!”

      2. It’s not. The Saudis are intentionally keeping the price of oil low in order to kill off the American fracking revolution. And it’s working, on the railroad we are beginning to see the sleepy private tracks being used to store mothballed frack sand cars.

        1. If by ‘keeping it low’ you mean pumping it, ok.

        2. I think it originally started that way, but it got away from them and now they’re paying the piper. Without a boost in oil prices, they’ve got serious problems. Problems that make ours look insignificant.

          http://www.businessinsider.com…..rld-2015-7

  9. Speaking of watching “cases”, don’t forget the live Obama gun town hall on CNN Thursday at 8PM.

    *** places plexiglass in front of TV ***

    1. We could witness peak derp.

      1. Obama foreshadowed his actions in his weekly address.

        “Change, as always, is going to take all of us,” Obama said in his address. “The gun lobby is loud and well organized in its defense of effortlessly available guns for anyone. The rest of us are going to have to be just as passionate and well organized in our defense of our kids. That’s the work of citizenship — to stand up and fight for the change that we seek.”

        We could witness peak BS.

        1. The guns in my house are there in defense of my kids. Shut the fuck up, Obama.

        2. How’s that workin’ in Chicago? Oh, he means “his and Michelle’s” kids.

          1. Oh, he means “his and Michelle’s” kids.

            Who are under armed Secret Service protection 24/7. Everyone else can suck it as far Obozo is concerned. What a fucking clown.

        3. When Obama references the “gun lobby,” he’s referring to, what, 70%+ of the population?

          1. Fucking bitter clingers.

          2. Yes, but they’re the neanderthal 70% and not the androvictimus evolvicus population. So they don’t count. Like pets don’t count.

            1. So they don’t even count three-fifths?

              1. Not even .22.

              2. What a stupid concept that was from otherwise smart people.

                1. What a stupid concept that was from otherwise smart people.

                  The Three-Fifths compromise?

                  They had three choices:

                  1. Count the slaves as whole people for the purposes of representation, thus giving the slaveholders extra votes with which to perpetuate slavery.

                  2. Do not count the slaves at all for the purposes of representation, thus ensuring the southern states would not ratify the Constitution.

                  3. Make a compromise, diluting the power of the slaveholders while ensuring that the Constitution took effect over all the states, allowing the issue to be resolved later. That is what they did, and it was the best option at the time.

                  What they didn’t anticipate was how the issue of slavery would be resolved, but how could they have foreseen the Civil War?

    2. Who would want to bet that Obama will not say ‘The vast majority of Americans want sensible gun control, but Congress…’ or something to that effect?

      1. Does my dog eat her shit?
        Declare, deride and deflect. Demagoguery 101.

      2. How about betting on if someone at the “town hall”is allowed to say, “Mr. President, there are thousands of gun laws already in existence; in my state, it’s almost impossible to legally buy a gun or get a permit to carry one. Why do you keep saying that the gun lobby and Congress are keeping any guns laws from being passed? Also, what specific law would you pass that would have prevented any of the mass shootings that have taken place in the past 7 years?”

  10. The Friedrich case is interesting. I have never bought the “free rider” argument because one could argue better negotiators and those with in demand skills are harmed by the collective bargaining because they could have received better offers than the collective agreements because those favor seniority over everything else.

    Why can’t a school district or an independent school decide to only hire union members? Then there is no free-rider. Want to work at school x? Be a member of the union. Don’t like the union? Don’t work at school x. Other districts could still use standard packages similar to how teachers are hired now but not require membership or forbid it. Etc, etc.

    Obviously there would likely be coercion by the teachers unions and fear mongering, but it seems like a step in the right direction.

    1. Why can’t a school district or an independent school decide to only hire union members?

      Because they’re arms of the government?

      I don’t know if it’s legal for the government to run a closed shop, but it damn well shouldn’t be.

      1. The government already runs a closed shop. All state employees in every state I live in have to be part of the union (or pay dues anyway). I don’t think the government should mandate union membership for a job, but I am willing to take it one step at a time.

        No one is forcing anyone to be a teacher, and if it at the individual district level, you can always find another school to teach at. Districts won’t force union membership once they start losing top teachers.

        1. You asked “why can’t they” then said “they can and do”. Make up your mind.

          No one is forcing anyone to be a teacher

          … so why should they be unionized? What you said is a pretty succinct argument against unionization (mandatory or no).

          But regardless, someone is forcing me to pay for it. Not that it has any bearing on Friedrich’s case, but there is no taxpayer interest served in running a closed shop.

    2. That would make union membership a requirement of being a teacher at a government school with paying dues for the union’s political activities. It falls afoul of previous court decisions and that the government cannot force non political employees to support particular politics.

  11. If Friedrichs and others like her aren’t forced to pony up, the union maintains, they would become the quintessential “free riders.”

    So? That sounds like the union’s problem. It completely avoids the constitutional question posed by Friedrichs.

    1. It presumes that the union has a right to monopolize the workforce and that no individual has a right to refuse their services

      1. The union contends that their services benefit everyone and you can’t possibly distinguish between what does and doesn’t come from the union.

        Yet somehow any time there’s a budget crunch, they have no compunction about distinguishing between who has and hasn’t paid union dues.

        Funny, that.

  12. These will almost all be obvious by next weekend.
    Curtis J. Neeley Jr., Petitioner v. Louis Jerry Edwards, et al, (15-7509)
    Scheduled for conference Friday 8, 2016.
    http://Human-Dignity-US.org

  13. Get your 8-ball, whiteout, and pens ready!

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.