I'm thinking of the cases that are coming up in my Constitutional Law classes this week, wondering which ones were decided 5-4, and imagining saying: But if Justice Scalia had died earlier and been replaced by an Obama nominee, this case would have gone the other way. So the case you have read and its inverted version, with the dissents as the majority, are essentially equally good law, distinguished not by reason and logic, but by the hardiness or fragility of the human body. Yes, you need to see that this is the precedent now, but you need also to know that it may be the other way around by the time you graduate. It's naive self-deception to learn the cases as a statement of the law. They are only temporary resting places. And yes, I've devoted my life to teaching people like you about these scurrilous writings, but they were somewhat satisfyingly anchored by this Justice whose time on the Court has spanned my teaching career, who wrote with engaging clarity and vigor. Now comes the deluge of muddled repositionings, couched in tedious verbiage and, bobbing woozily in the muddy water, you will spot a few bright-colored floaty toys, the overrulings.
But first come the articles, written by law professors, like: "How Scalia’s Death Could Shake Up Campaign Finance/It might be the opening reformers have been waiting for," by Richard L. Hasen. Maybe the new liberal majority — if it comes to be — will overturn Citizens United. And yet:
... Supreme Court justices of whatever stripe are reluctant to easily overturn precedent.... It does not look good for Supreme Court precedent to swing like a pendulum, or for lower court judges to ignore Supreme Court rulings, making the boundary between law and politics look ever more porous.I boldfaced the word "look." I expect the justices to to tend to appearances. It won't look like a pendulum swinging or an ever more porous boundary. It also won't look readably Scaliaesque. The coherence of the changes will be explained in long, complicated opinions that no one will want to read, but that law professors will have to continue to assign and explain.