On February 13, 2016, U.S. Supreme Court “Justice” Antonin Scalia died of a heart attack in his sleep at a luxury resort in Texas after a day spent hunting quail. His death leaves the court with eight Justices, split evenly between liberal and conservative, making deadlock between the judges on most of the decisions inevitable. As a result, the decisions of lower courts are allowed to stand.
For example, on February 26, 2016, Dow Chemical Company announced that it would agree to pay $835 million to settle a $1.06 billion class-action antitrust ruling, in which a lower court jury found that the corporation was in cahoots with other manufacturers to fix prices for urethane, a polymer commonly used in building furniture, refrigerators and other household appliances.
In an emailed statement, the company reported:
“Growing political uncertainties due to recent events with the Supreme Court and increased likelihood for unfavorable outcomes for business involved in class-action suits have changed Dow’s risk assessment of the situation.”
In other words, “The guy who had our back is dead, so now we can’t get away with our dirty tricks like we used to do.”
In response to Scalia’s death, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), along with the other Republicans in the Senate, vowed to deny holding confirmation hearings for President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee and even refused to meet privately with whomever the President chooses, taking a stance in sharp contrast to the one he took at times when a white Republican was in the Oval Office, instead of a black Democrat.
At the moment, there are numerous pending cases involving corporations the Supreme Court has yet to hear, despite the fact that the bench is one Justice down. Considering that absent obstructionism from Congressional Republicans, in my opinion, President Obama would appoint a liberal Justice; and considering that the obstructionism on the part of Congressional Republicans is writing campaign ads for the Democrats left, right, center, over, under, sideways and down. This hurts the chances for the conservative wing of the Supreme Court to regain and maintain a majority after the 2016 election. It appears as though Mitch McConnell’s petulant connivance will prove ineffective, as with Scalia dead, Corporate America’s influence over the Supreme Court and the rest of the United States’ political landscape may be at long last be on the wane.