Cal AG Files Brief in Opposition to Certiorari in Friedrichs

Last week, California Attorney General Kamala Harris submitted a brief asking the Supreme Court to deny certiorari in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association (previously discussed here and here), and thereby to let Abood live to fight another day. Harris’s brief — which was filed at the request of the Court after she initially waived her right to respond to the petition — tracks a number of the same arguments raised by the respondent unions in their separate brief.

First, Harris challenged petitioners’ implicit contention that “all public-sector bargaining is ‘political speech'” by arguing that “negotiations addressing routine employment matters . . . are not ‘political’ in that sense.” Second, Harris claimed that “[o]verruling Abood‘s long-established rule would undermine important state interests and cause unwarranted disruption in States, such as California, that have structured and maintained their public employment systems based on [Abood and its progeny].” Third, Harris questioned whether Friedrichs was “a good vehicle” for deciding Abood‘s continued viability, suggesting that petitioners’ rush to have their case heard before the Court has led not only to some unusual procedural moves, but also, and more importantly, to a factual record that “has not been developed in a way that would allow the Court to consider the constitutional issues in any concrete or adequately tested factual context.”

Finally, Harris responded to petitioners’ argument that requiring employees to opt out of paying nonchargeable expenses violates the First Amendment by noting that each of the petitioners “has successfully opted out of paying for [nonchargeable] activities for many years.” That “[n]o individual petitioner . . . has been unable to exercise the right not to support nonchargeable activities,” Harris argued, suggests that there has been no “actual interference with petitioners’ rights.” Harris also attacked petitioners’ claim of a circuit split on this issue, arguing that a “conflict of authority” exists not “on the validity of opt-out requirements,” but rather, only on the “narrower question” of whether employees must renew their objections each year.

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