Press Release: Union Fees Case is Not Over

Union Fees Case is Not Over

Legal team plans to move for Friedrichs case to be re-heard


Washington, D.C.—Today the Center for Individual Rights announced plans to ensure the full Supreme Court — including a newly confirmed Justice — can render an authoritative decision in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association.

Saturday’s death of Justice Antonin Scalia changed what many constitutional experts and Court-watchers assumed would be a 5-4 decision in favor of Rebecca Friedrichs and the other teacher-petitioners.  With only eight Justices currently sitting on the Court, observers now expect that a decision this term would be a 4-4 tie, which would leave the lower court ruling in place and would have no precedential weight.

The Court could decide on its own to set the case for re-argument next term.  If instead it issues a 4-4 decision, the lawyers for Friedrichs plan to file a motion for rehearing so that the full Court, including its new Justice, can hear and decide the case.  It is likely that a rehearing would occur during the Court’s next term, beginning October 2016, delaying by a year final resolution of the case.

The purpose of holding a case for re-argument is well settled — the parties and the country deserve an authoritative decision by the full Court, especially in a closely contested matter involving fundamental individual rights.  There are many examples in the last several decades of the Court re-hearing cases that had already been argued once a new Justice joined the bench. (See Tom Goldstein’s article on for examples.)

Terry Pell, President of the Center for Individual Rights, issued the following statement:

“The Friedrichs case is one of the most important First Amendment cases to come before the Supreme Court this term.  The stakes are big for the tens of thousands of teachers, firefighters, nurses, child services workers, and other unionized public employees who are required to pay dues to organizations with which they fundamentally disagree.  The outcome is no less important for the thousands of public employee unions that have come to depend on state-enforced dues.

Union supporters who proclaimed Friedrichs done and over with within hours of Justice Scalia’s death miss what is at the heart of this case:  the crucial need for our Supreme Court to settle controversial questions of individual rights — rights that affect all Americans — authoritatively.  These central First Amendment issues need to be settled after full deliberation, not as the result of the tragic and untimely death of one Justice.  Friedrichs needs to be heard and decided by a full Court.

When the country is divided on a question of a fundamental constitutional right, the continued vitality of our democracy depends on a prompt and authoritative answer by the Supreme Court.

By law, a tie vote does not settle the question but only leaves the lower court opinion in place and reserves the legal question for a future case. Such an outcome would only provoke further dissension and litigation.  The unions have argued that labor peace is essential to a well-functioning collective bargaining system.  A tie vote would only serve to undermine the very labor peace that underscores the unions’ arguments.

A union cannot claim to represent the interest of all workers if there is ongoing doubt about the constitutionality of its forcible collection of millions of dollars in dues.  Either compulsory dues are an acceptable exception to the First Amendment or they are not.  The Court needs to decide this question.”

The Center for Individual Rights is representing the plaintiff teachers in Friedrichs .v CTA, together with lead counsel Michael Carvin of Jones Day. Terry Pell has been an attorney for more than 35 years.

To interview Terry Pell about next steps in the Friedrichs case, or to talk to Rebecca Friedrichs or another teacher plaintiff, please contact Starlee Coleman at (602) 758-9162 or