The following comes from a February 16 Ventura County Star article by Tom Kisken:
As Michael McLean rehashed for the umpteenth time blurred scenarios created by Justice Antonin Scalia’s sudden death Saturday, one thing was clear.
Leaders of Thomas Aquinas College near Santa Paula were depending on Scalia’s vote in their Supreme Court battle involving birth control and their religious beliefs.
“His passing is a huge blow to our legal strategy at least in the short term,” said McLean, president of the small Catholic college where Scalia spoke about the Constitution in 1997.
The college is one of the religious institutions fighting an Affordable Care Act mandate for employers to offer insurance that covers contraception. Lawyers representing the college and other groups are scheduled to make legal arguments before the Supreme Court on March 23.
The school argues the mandate conflicts with its Catholic beliefs. Government officials say the coverage is designed to improve access to birth control and make sure it is affordable. They say employers can opt out through a system in which an insurer or third party would provide birth control coverage without the employer paying.
Officials of Thomas Aquinas, which is self-insured, said the accommodation doesn’t remove the school from the domino chain that would lead to coverage for contraceptions.
Constitutional law experts say it’s unclear what will happen next. Some cases that appear destined to a 4-4 vote could be held over until a new justice is appointed and confirmed.
Promises by Republicans to block any candidates nominated by President Barack Obama means that process could drag far into 2017.
If Republicans block installation of a justice until a new president is in office, it could be April 2017 or later before a full court is in place, said Barry McDonald, constitutional law professor from Pepperdine University.
The blocking efforts could become more challenging for the Republicans and trigger backlash worries, if Obama nominates a candidate with broad public appeal, McDonald said.