Friedrichs v. California Teachers Ass'n

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Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Argued January 11, 2016
Decided March 29, 2016
Full case name Rebecca Friedrichs, et al., Petitioners v. California Teachers Association, et al.
Docket nos. 14-915
Citations 578 U.S. ___ (more)
Argument Oral argument
Opinion announcement Opinion announcement
Subsequent history Rehearing denied
The judgment was affirmed by an equally-divided court.
Court membership
Chief Justice
John Roberts
Associate Justices
Anthony Kennedy
Clarence Thomas · Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Stephen Breyer · Samuel Alito
Sonia Sotomayor · Elena Kagan
Case opinions
Per curiam.

Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, 578 U.S. ___ (2016), is a United States labor law case that came before the Supreme Court of the United States. At issue in the case was whether Abood v. Detroit Board of Education should be overruled, with public-sector "agency shop" arrangements invalidated under the First Amendment, and whether it violates the First Amendment to require that public employees affirmatively object to subsidizing nonchargeable speech by public-sector unions, rather than requiring employees to consent affirmatively to subsidizing such speech. Specifically, the case concerned public sector collective bargaining by the California Teachers Association, an affiliate of the National Education Association.[1]

Justice Antonin Scalia died shortly after the case was argued in front of the Supreme Court, leaving only eight members to decide the case. In the end, the result was a non-precedential per curiam opinion affirming the lower-court decision by an equally-divided Supreme Court.[2] On June 28, 2016, the rehearing petition submitted by the Center for Individual Rights (CIR) was denied, letting the Ninth Circuit's decision stand as its final judgment.[3]

In 2017, after regaining a ninth Justice, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a substantially similar case, Janus v. AFSCME.[4]


In the 1977 case Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, the Supreme Court upheld the maintaining of a union shop in a public workplace. Public school teachers in Detroit had sought to overturn the requirement that they pay fees equivalent to union dues on the grounds that they opposed public sector collective bargaining and objected to the ideological activities of the union. The court affirmed that the union shop, which is legal in the private sector, is also legal in the public sector. They found that non-members may be assessed dues for "collective bargaining, contract administration, and grievance adjustment purposes", but that objectors to union membership or policy may not have their dues used for other ideological or political purposes.[5]

Initial lawsuit[edit]

The Center for Individual Rights (CIR), a conservative law firm which brought the case with funding from the Bradley Foundation, initiated contact with the plaintiffs, ten public school teachers who had paid agency fees.[6] The lead plaintiff, Orange County elementary teacher Rebecca Friedrichs, had previously served on her local union's executive committee.[7]

Death of Antonin Scalia[edit]

Many legal commentators speculated that the death of Justice Antonin Scalia would make the Court either divide evenly on the case, letting the Ninth Circuit's ruling stand against the plaintiffs but not setting a precedent, or call for reargument once Scalia's vacancy has been filled.[8][9]


On March 29, 2016, the Supreme Court issued a one-line per curiam opinion affirming the Ninth Circuit; as a decision made by an equally-divided court, the case is not considered to set a legal precedent.[10][11] The Center for Individual Rights (CIR) said it plans to ask the Supreme Court to reevaluate the case once a ninth justice has been appointed to replace Scalia.[12] CIR's rehearing petition was ultimately denied on June 28, 2016.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "About CTA". California Teachers Association. Retrieved 2016-04-06. 
  2. ^ Lithwick, Dahlia (March 29, 2016). "Public Sector Unions Just Dodged a Major Bullet at the Supreme Court". Slate. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31 - SCOTUSblog". SCOTUSblog. Retrieved 2017-11-17. 
  5. ^ Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, 431 U.S. 209 (U.S. 1977).
  6. ^ Mahoney, Brian (January 10, 2016). "Conservative group nears big payoff in Supreme Court case". Politico. 
  7. ^ Egelko, Bob (January 10, 2016). "High court may hit public worker unions hard in Friedrichs case". San Francisco Chronicle. 
  8. ^ Garden, Charlotte. "Scalia's Death and the Consequences for Unions". The Atlantic. Retrieved March 29, 2016. 
  9. ^ Hirshman, Linda (December 31, 2015). "Why the next Supreme Court vacancy will favor liberals, no matter who retires". Washington Post. Retrieved March 29, 2016. 
  10. ^ Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, 578 U.S. ___ (U.S. 2016).
  11. ^ Savage, David G. (March 29, 2016). "Supreme Court's tie vote upholds public employee fees for unions". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 29, 2016. 
  12. ^ Phenicie, Carolyn (February 21, 2016). "After Scalia, a 4-4 Friedrichs Decision? Lawyers Say There's Precedent to Demand a Re-Hearing". Retrieved April 4, 2016. 
  13. ^

External links[edit]