In one of the last acts of the current term, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a petition from plaintiffs in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association to rehear the case that the court had already ruled on in a 4-4-opinion in March.
The lawsuit sought to eliminate “agency fees” that require teachers to pay a portion of union dues. If the plaintiffs – Rebecca Friedrichs and nine other California teachers – had won, it could have inflicted a potentially devastating financial blow against the CTA, and by extension all public employee unions.
The split opinion, which came about as a result of the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, represented a major victory for the CTA and public employee unions. It kept the court’s earlier decision, requiring mandatory fees, intact.
The Supreme Court’s action on Tuesday means that the plaintiffs will have to begin again by filing a new lawsuit in a lower court to bring the matter back to the Supreme Court.
Terry Pell, president of the Center for Individual Rights, the nonprofit public interest law firm representing the plaintiffs in the case, said he “was greatly disappointed” in the court’s decision not to rehear the case.
“Today’s decision was not a decision on the merits of our case nor was it accompanied by an opinion,” he said. “We continue to believe that forcing individuals to subsidize political speech with which they disagree violates the First Amendment. We will look for opportunities to challenge compulsory union dues laws in other cases and continue our efforts to stand up for the rights of teachers and public sector workers across the country.”
For background on the petition to rehear the case, see this analysis by Lyle Dennison of Scotusblog.com.