Although the litigation in the case is unlikely to pierce the skin of social activists, the U.S. Supreme Court returned its first split decision in the absence of a ninth jurist on Tuesday.
With this first 4-4 tie, astute observers of the court are being granted keen insight to the chaos which could await should the Supreme Court remain in want.
The case, Hawkins v. Community Bank of Raymore, involves two women, Valerie Hawkins and Janice Patterson, both spouses of businessmen involved in a building project, who agreed to co-sign on a $2 million loan.
Community Bank of Raymore agreed to the loan contingent with Patterson and Hawkins’ signatures as guarantees to the advance.
In April 2012, PHC Development, LLC (PHC), owned by Hawkin’s and Patterson’s husbands, defaulted on the loan and Community Bank of Raymore and named both Valerie Hawkins and Janice Patterson to be equally liable for the loans.
Both women sued Raymore under the U.S. Equal Credit Opportunity Act on the grounds they were discriminated against as spouses. Considered “applicants,” and therefore liable for payment, the case reached the High Court after the Eighth Circuit Appeals Court ruled in favor of Raymore.
Since the High Court’s even ruling automatically returns the matter to the Eighth Circuit Appeals Court, which owns jurisdiction over Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota, no impact will be felt outside the Eighth Court’s dominion.
This case, however, should prepare litigants for an immediate future with a short-handed court: Impending cases on abortion, labor union dues and court challenges to President Obama’s executive action on immigration and Obamacare are in the docket and likely to cause considerable consternation.
This summer could turn out to be a disaster for the court system and will certainly ratchet up calls for movement on Mr. Obama’s nominee, Judge Merrick Garland.