American Judges Association


Date of this Version



Court Review, Volume 52, Issue 3 (2016)


Copyright American Judges Association. Used by permission.


The Court’s October 2015 Term was dominated by the news of Justice Antonin Scalia’s unexpected death in February 2016 and by President Barack Obama’s unsuccessful battle to persuade Senate Republicans to consider his nomination of Chief Judge Merrick Garland, of the D.C. Circuit, to fill the vacancy. The loss of Justice Scalia resulted in a handful of nonprecedent-setting affirmances by an equally divided Court. Those splits came on the questions of whether the First Amendment bars public-sector unions from imposing mandatory fees on non-member employees;1 whether Texas and other states may successfully challenge the Obama Administration’s decision to defer deportation of a large number of noncitizens;2 whether to overrule Nevada v. Hall,3 the 1979 case in which the Court held that a state may be sued without its consent in other states’ courts;4 whether Indian tribal courts have jurisdiction to adjudicate tort claims against non-members;5 and whether spousal guarantors are “applicants” for credit within the meaning of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act and are thus statutorily authorized to sue creditors for marital discrimination.6

Four-four splits were, however, the exception rather than the rule. Both while Justice Scalia remained on the Court and continuing after his saddening death, the Court handed down precedent-setting rulings on numerous issues of broad interest, including the Court’s most significant ruling on abortion rights in nearly a quarter of a century.