Conservatives Say They Want Another Antonin Scalia. They Really Want Another Sam Alito.

Source: Stephanie Mencimer, Mother Jones, May/June 2016

…..If a Republican (even Donald Trump) appoints the next Supreme Court justice, he won’t be looking for another Roberts, Kennedy, or even Scalia. Instead, he will seek another Samuel Alito—whose rulings on issues from abortion to unions to affirmative action never deviate from the conservative line…..

…..He may have a bad poker face, but Alito excels at the inside game. What makes him such a force on the court is his ability to identify and exploit holes in long-established precedent to achieve conservative goals.

Consider how he set the stage for a case argued before the court in January, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, which could have dramatically weakened public-employee unions. In recent years, the anti-union National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation has initiated a pair of cases, Knox v. seiu (2012) and Harris v. Quinn (2014), to further the conservative mission of defunding unions, a big source of Democratic Party campaign contributions. Those cases targeted the decision in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, a 1977 opinion in which the Supreme Court ruled that public-sector unions could charge nonmembers mandatory fees for the cost of representing them in collective bargaining because those nonmembers would benefit from the unions’ work. Both cases were decided in favor of the union foes, with Alito penning the majority decisions. The facts of neither Knox nor Harris supported driving a stake through Abood. But in Knox, Alito strayed beyond the questions at issue to suggest that Abood was unconstitutional—judicial activism vigorously opposed in an opinion by Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

In Harris, Alito slyly offered union opponents a road map to a more expansive ruling. He suggested Abood vio­lated the free-speech rights of public employees, who were forced to support unions whose political positions they didn’t necessarily agree with. And now there is Friedrichs, a case tailored to the argument Alito had outlined, and designed to deprive public-sector unions of millions of dollars in fees and weaken their bargaining power. The case looked headed to be headed for a 5-4 decision against the unions—until the unexpected death of Justice Scalia in February. In March, the eight-member court deadlocked 4-4 and issued a one-sentence decision upholding a lower court ruling siding with the unions……