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BREAKING: Supreme Court Slaps Down Ninth Circuit, Decides Against SEIU

The Supreme Court handed down neither its Obamacare ruling, nor its Arizona immigration law decision today, so we'll have to wait until at least Monday (and possibly later) for those.  But since all eyes were on the High Court this morning, one verdict of note was rendered: In the case of Knox v. SEIU, the Court overturned the hard-Left Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals -- a regular occurrence these days -- and ruled against the SEIU.  The decision was a relatively lopsided 7-2 split: Justices Sotomayor and Ginsburg sided with Roberts, Alito, Thomas, Scalia and Kennedy, though the two left-leaning ladies wrote a separate concurrence. Justices Breyer and Kagan dissented.  The very basics:


The Supreme Court says a union must give nonmembers an immediate chance to object to unexpected fee increases that all workers are required to pay in closed-shop situations.  The court on Thursday ruled for Dianne Knox and other nonmembers of the Service Employees International Union's Local 1000, who wanted to object and opt out of a $12 million special assessment the union required from its California public sector members. Knox and others said the union did not give them a legally required notice that the increase was coming.  The union, and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, said the annual notice that the union gives was sufficient. The high court disagreed in a 7-2 judgment written by Justice Samuel Alito.

Powerline's Steven Hayward offers his initial assessment:
The Knox v. SEIU decision was handed down today, and it looks like an important blow against labor unions. And once again, the egregious  Ninth Circus Court of Appeals was reversed. Knox concerns coercive union dues collected from non-members and used for political purposes.  When dissenting employees brought suit against these dues a few years ago out in California, the SEIU tried to render the case moot by refunding dues to the dissenters.  The Court didn’t buy it.  The first sentence of the Holding is: “This case is not moot.”  I’ll need to read the whole thing carefully, but it looks from a quick perusal that the practical affect will be to require an affirmative checkoff of union dues for political use rather than the automatic confiscation that unions have hitherto enjoyed, similar to the Scott Walker reforms in Wisconsin that have devastated public employee union political capacity there.

This may not be the sweeping loss for the government sector unions that some conservative would like to think it is (the decision is limited to non-members and focuses on a squabble over proper notification of special political dues).  Nonetheless, the union went through pains to attempt to render the issue moot by reiumbursing the complaintants in the class action suit, likely to avoid a SCOTUS ruling they suspected might be hostile.  They were correct.  Precedent set.  Someone on Twitter -- I can't remember who -- made a good point.  The SEIU poured millions into Barack Obama's presidential campaign.  Did they expect that his first Supreme Court appointee would rule against them in a major case?

UPDATE - Read a lengthier analysis of Knox at Red State.

UPDATE II - For a short digest of the other decisions announced today, click through.

UPDATE III (Kate Hicks) - The Court also released its ruling on FCC v. Fox Television Stations this morning, which may explaint he uptick in "f-words" that have been jokingly bandied about on Twitter this morning. The case pertains to indecency law, and whether the Federal Communications Commission correctly applied regulations to two different television networks, ABC and Fox, for perceived violations of indecency law. The Court ruled unanimously for Fox, 8-0 (Sotomayor recused herself), but many seem to have misread it as the Court deciding that fleeting profanity is protected speech. Not so -- or at least, not yet. The Court only ruled against the FCC on Fifth Amendment grounds, meaning that it violated due process, and didn't give adequate warning to the networks that they were in violation of indecency standards. Thus, the networks don't have to pay fines; however, the FCC is free to change its indecency policy as it deems necessary. From the opinion:


In the challenged orders now under review the Commission applied the new principle promulgated in the Golden Globes Order and determined fleeting expletives and a brief moment of indecency were actionably indecent. This regulatory history, however, makes it apparent that the Commission policy in place at the time of the broadcasts gave no notice to Fox or ABC that a fleeting expletive or a brief shot of nudity could be action­ ably indecent; yet Fox and ABC were found to be in violation. The Commission’s lack of notice to Fox and ABC that its interpretation had changed so the fleeting moments of indecency contained in their broadcasts were a violation of §1464 as interpreted and enforced by the agency “fail[ed] to provide a person of ordinary intelligence fair notice of what is prohibited.” Williams, supra, at 304.

First Amendment protections have not been altered in any way. The Court came to three conclusions in its opinion, which reiterate that this case was decided on the basis of the due process clause, and what's more, that the FCC still has the right to regulate "fleeting" indecent language at this time:

First, because the Court resolves these cases on fair notice grounds under the Due Process Clause, it need not address the First Amendment implications of the Commission’s indecency policy. [Second] Here, the Court rules that Fox and ABC lacked notice at the time of their broadcasts that the material they were broadcasting could be found actionably indecent under then-existing policies. Given this disposition, it is unnecessary for the Court to address the constitutionality of the current indecency policy as expressed in the Golden Globes Order and sub­sequent adjudications. The Court adheres to its normal practice of declining to decide cases not before it. Third, this opinion leaves the Commission free to modify its current indecency policy in light of its determination of the public interest and applicable legal requirements. And it leaves the courts free to review the current policy or anymodified policy in light of its content and application.


The case was remanded, meaning sent back to the lower court for futher review of the First Amendment implications. We'll see this one again on those grounds at the High Court in a future term.

UPDATE IV - In a pretty useless poll, Supreme Court "insiders" predict the supremes will strike down the individual mandate next week.  Sure, it's pure educated guess work with zero predictive value, but it's also grist for the mill as we all breathlessly watch and wait.

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