What a difference a day makes. That’s what Supreme Court watchers are saying about the sudden demise of Associate Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. His death, tilting the highest court in the land to a 4-4 tie between its bedrock conservative wing and its more liberal counterweight, has thrown a variety of litigants into a tizzy as they try to sort out what impact the new balance in the Court will have for them.
One big loser is Dow Chemical in a recent antitrust case. Dow had planned to challenge a $1.06 billion award to people who bought compounds for urethanes, a class of carcinogenic, toxic chemicals which are the base for foam upholstery. A jury in a lower court found in against Dow and four other companies, holding they were complicit in trying to fix prices on the chemicals.
Dow had planned to appeal the case to the Supreme Court, confident that the high court’s consistent 5-4 split (with Scalia’s considerable weight favoring business and other conservative causes regardless of the precedent or even logic involved) would play out in their favor. Upon news of the famously hard line conservative judge’s death, however, Dow quickly did an about face and decided to accept a slightly lower settlement of $835 million and be done with it, rather than take their chances with a tie in the Supreme Court, which would by default uphold the lower court’s ruling.
Whether it’s handing the presidency to arguably the worst president and most venal, corrupt vice president this country has ever seen, or ruling in favor of Wal-Mart despite its clear violation of gender discrimination regulations, or finding for Comcast in a monopoly suit or for American Express although it had clearly violated anti-trust law, Scalia has never met a corporate monolith or a corporatist he didn’t love.
Indeed, there are serious allegations surfacing that Scalia’s love may also have included young boys and that such attractions were associated with his very surprisingly hushed- and covered-up autopsy-free death.
The vacancy on the court could well have a number of interesting, unforeseen consequences along these lines. There are cases pending involving Microsoft, and Tyson Foods whose outcome could be drastically altered by Scalia’s absence. And with Senate Republicans seemingly determined to prevent any and all potential Obama nominees from even being considered, the potential chaos of high Court gridlock seems like a foregone conclusion.
At least in the Dow case, we can rest assured that these corporations didn’t get away scot-free due to the outsized influence of the recently deceased pro-corporate lackey.