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3 ways Trump's SCOTUS pick could impact California

President Donald Trump shakes hands with 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Neil Gorsuch, his choice for Supreme Court Justices in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2017.
President Donald Trump shakes hands with 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Neil Gorsuch, his choice for Supreme Court Justices in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2017.
Carolyn Kaster/AP

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With Neil Gorsuch tapped by President Donald Trump to replace the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Senate Democrats are now considering whether to block the pick.

Shortly after Trump's announcement Tuesday, for instance, Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon said he would “do everything in my power to stand up against this assault on the Court.”

Still, it's not yet clear how far the Democrats will go to oppose the nomination, and by many accounts, it could prove difficult to attack Gorsuch on his record: he has a reputation as a thoughtful and intellectually sharp conservative.

If confirmed, he'll join a court that will make some key decisions in the coming months that could have direct implications for California.

Here are three cases that could affect California and how Gorsuch could change the outcome:

1. Unions: Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association

"This has to do with the power of public employee unions to access dues for people, whether or not they support being part of that union," says KQED's Scott Shafer. "This is a case that made its way up to the Supreme Court last year and the lower courts had ruled for the union. It came up to the Supreme Court, and it was a 4-4 deadlock without Scalia being there."

Shafer says the union dodged a bullet.

"If their ability to access dues had been taken away, as it probably would have been if Antonin Scalia had been there, it would have been a serious blow to their viability, which is exactly what conservatives have been aiming for for some time," Shafer says.

With Gorsuch in the Supreme Court, employees will likely be allowed to "free ride" on the backs of union members, says Adam Winkler, professor of constitutional law at UCLA.

"All employees benefit from the deals the union cuts for better wages, better benefits, but if Gorsuch votes, not all employees will pay their fair share for costs of collective bargaining," Winkler says. "Unions will have an increasingly difficult time raising the money necessary to pay for the negotiations that give employees those benefits."

2. Guns: Peruta v. California 

The case of Peruta v. California was filed by five gun owners in San Diego against the San Diego Sheriff's Department, which denied them concealed carry permits. 

"In many cases, counties just require that you want to use it for self-defense. The San Diego Sheriff has a higher standard," Shafer says. "It's a fundamental case about the second amendment. In a previous decision that Scalia wrote — the Heller Decision — he said that the right to bear arms is not unlimited. So the question is what are those limits and is the San Diego policy within those limits."

Winkler predicts the impact of a vote for the gun owners:

"Gorsuch would likely be a strong vote in favor of a right to carry a gun in public," Winkler says. "If so, and that vote sways the Supreme Court, then it could mean that places like Los Angeles, where today only a few hundred civilians have a right to carry a gun in public, it would mean that maybe several hundred thousand Los Angeles residents would be able to carry guns in public."

3. Pensions: CalPERS v. ANZ Securities

California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) bought stocks and bonds from the (now defunct) investment bank Lehman Brothers shortly before the housing market collapsed. The firm declared bankruptcy. Since then, they've been trying to recover about $200 million in lost funds.

"Originally, CalPERS was part of a class action lawsuit. They dropped out and decided to go it alone, rather than sharing in a settlement with others," Shafer says. "A federal court in New York said 'Sorry, time's up. You missed the deadline. You can't really go it alone.'"

But CalPERS, taking advantage of a four-decade-old extension put in place by the Supreme Court, will have their case heard again.

"CalPERS is a $300 billion fund," Shafer adds. "It probably isn't going to make or break the fund, but I'm sure they'd like to get that money back."

To listen to the interview, click on the blue media player above.