As everyone knows, or should know by now, Justice Scalia has passed away, leaving a vacancy in the United States Supreme Court. Regardless of how you felt about the man, he was a legal juggernaut and admired not only by his fellow justices, but also by many conservatives and liberals alike.

There is so much controversy surrounding who will replace Justice Scalia and whether or not the senate will block a nomination until after the presidential election. This blog is not intended to discuss those controversies. Instead, I want to discuss what could happen in the event Justice Scalia is not replaced prior to this session’s cases being heard.

Now that there is a vacancy in the Court, there is a real possibility that the Justices will be split 4 – 4 on cases (especially considering the fact that most controversial cases are decided 5 – 4) in this session. A 4 – 4 split is not impossible when there are 9 judges on the bench either. There are times where a justice will recuse themselves from hearing a case because they may have a conflict with that particular case. In the event that the Court is split, the ruling of the lower court will stand as if the Supreme Court never heard the case at all. However, the opinion of the Supreme Court will be persuasive to all other jurisdictions (all other states not subject to the decisions of the Federal Circuit Courts that originally heard the case). What are the Justices options? Well they can take the chance of voting and having a split, upholding the decision of the lower court, or they can hold the case over until next session in the hopes that Justice Scalia is replaced.

Considering the consequences of a 4 – 4 split, what are the big cases to watch this session? The following are the names of the cases and a link to the Supreme Court of the United States Blog explaining cases in detail:

Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin (Affirmative Action)

Evenwel v. Abbott (One Person, One Vote)

Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association (Public Union Dues)

Whole Women’s Health v. Cole (Abortion)

Whole Women’s Health v. Cole (Abortion)

Another link for great information considering these cases is http://blog.constitutioncenter.org/2016/01/five-supreme-court-cases-to-watch-in-2016/