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Justice Scalia's Death Causes Disarray in Supreme Court


U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s unexpected death in February at the age of 79 threw into disarray the fate of many of the Supreme Court’s most high profile cases, including those involving hot-button topics like immigration, abortion, class action standards, and affirmative action. With his passing, there is now a clear opening for the high court to split evenly on whether consumers are allowed to sue companies for technical statutory violations without having to allege an actual injury.

One case that is likely to be affected by Scalia’s death is the case of Spokeo v. Robins, which we have talked about before in a previous blog. During oral arguments in November, the high court was divided on whether the plaintiff did or did not need to allege an actual injury to maintain his claim. Scalia’s passing will likely have a very significant impact on the outcome of this case, since he was poised to be a reliable vote in favor of reversing the Ninth Circuit’s ruling which stated that the plaintiff must have actually been injured (not just hypothetically).

If Justice Kennedy, who has traditionally been in the middle of the traditional split between liberal and conservative justices, decides to side with conservatives in this case (as he has indicated he may), then the court would be plunged into a 4-4 tie. This would mean that they would either have to make a decision that has no precedential value affirming the decision of the Ninth Circuit, or the dispute would have to be relisted for next term after a ninth justice has been appointed. This would put off a decision until late spring or summer 2017.

To learn more, please click here to view “Scalia’s Death Adds to Uncertainty to Class Standing Fight.”