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Supreme Court justices appear split along ideological lines in oral arguments on public employee unions case, so what’s next?




Activists rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on February 26, 2018 in Washington, DC. The court is scheduled to hear the case, Janus v. AFSCME, to determine whether states violate their employees' First Amendment rights to require them to join public sector unions which they may not want to associate with.
Activists rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on February 26, 2018 in Washington, DC. The court is scheduled to hear the case, Janus v. AFSCME, to determine whether states violate their employees' First Amendment rights to require them to join public sector unions which they may not want to associate with.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

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All eyes were on the Supreme Court’s newest justice as he and his eight colleagues on the bench heard oral arguments Monday morning in Janus v. American Federation of County, State, and Municipal Employees, a case that revolves around whether forcing public employees to pay union costs of collective bargaining is a violation of the First Amendment.

The justices appeared split along ideological lines, with the lone question mark being Justice Neil Gorsuch, who apparently did not speak during oral arguments.

If the court rules in favor of the plaintiff, it would overturn Abood v. Detroit Board of Education,  a 1977 Supreme Court decision that forced non-union members to pay into the union to cover the cost of collective bargaining. It was 2016 when the Supreme Court considered a similar case, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. In that case, the justices appeared poised to overturn “Abood” and rule in favor of the plaintiffs, but the sudden death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February of 2016 left the court deadlocked at 4-4, so Justice Gorsuch’s vote could very well be the one that makes the decision.

For a deeper dive on the legal arguments at play, listen back to AirTalk’s Friday preview of today’s oral arguments.

Guests:

Jacob Huebert, attorney representing the plaintiff, Mark Janus, in the SCOTUS case, Janus v. AFSCME, which is scheduled for today; he is also the director of litigation at the Liberty Justice Center, a nonprofit that focuses on protecting economic liberty and private property rights

Matt Bodie, professor of employment and labor law at Saint Louis University; he co-authored an amicus brief in support of AFSCME

Yvonne Walker, president of SEIU Local 1000, the Sacramento-based branch of the labor union representing many public service workers