What Happens If U.S. Supreme Court Decisions End In A Tie?

The death of U.S. Supreme Court justice Antonin
Scalia in early February 2016 has left just eight justices, instead of the usual nine.
As long as Scalia’s seat is vacant, there is room for a draw. So, what happens if the
Supreme Court ties? Well, in 2015, out of fifteen major Supreme
Court cases, more than half came down to five against four. Even the recent same-sex marriage
decision was five-to-four, showing just how evenly the courts are split. During the tenure
of the current crop of justices, E-lay-na Kay-gan, Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg,
and Steven Breyer have generally voted along liberal lines, while John Roberts, Clarence
Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Antonin Scalia have voted more conservatively. The 9th Justice,
Anthony Kennedy, has consistently voted moderately, with about half and half liberal and conservatives
votes. Without Scalia, Kennedy has considerably more power in partisan, polarizing cases. However, having only eight justices rule on
a case does have precedent. In 2004, one former justice was absent from court due to thyroid
cancer, but he was still able to keep up with court proceedings, despite missing oral arguments.
Justices are also allowed to recuse themselves from a case, leaving only eight to vote on
it. This occurred in 2010, when Justice Kay-gan
recused herself from the case Omega S.A. v. Costco Wholesale Corp. She had been the solicitor
general for the Department of Justice when the case was originally filed, before it made
it to the Supreme Court. The eight member court ended up ruling 4 to 4. So what happened? Well, to understand, we
need to know how the Supreme Court works. The court is established to determine whether
or not laws and other legal matters are in line with the Constitution. Now, in practice,
the Supreme court is an appellate court, although it does have original jurisdiction in some
cases. What this means is that nearly all of the cases that come to the Supreme Court
have already been ruled on by lower courts. A lower court is simply a court whose decision
is appealable to a higher court, with greater jurisdiction. The Supreme Court, also known
around the world as a “High Court” cannot have their ruling appealed. Their word is
law, and sets a legal precedent on future cases, for all US courts. So when the eight member court tied in 2010,
what happened? Well, technically, nothing. A tie in the Supreme Court simply reaffirms
the decision of the most recent lower court. It effectively cancels the appeal. Additionally,
a tie means that there is no legal precedent set on the issue. In such cases, instead of
releasing a majority and minority opinion, the court releases what is called a per curiam
decision. This is usually a collectively authored simple rundown of the tied decision. In the
2010 Costco case, the per curiam stated “The judgment is affirmed by an equally divided
Court. Justice Kay-gan took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.”. In the end, a tied Supreme Court makes the
court ineffective, and with such a split opinion among justices, that may be a big problem. This episode is brought to you by Squarespace.
If you need to build a website, but have no idea where to start, check out Squarespace!
They’ll give you a free domain name when you sign up for a year, and if you type “TestTube”
at checkout, you’ll get an extra 10% off. Squarespace… you should. Capitol Hill is in a heated debate over who
will nominate justice Scalia’s successor. If you want to learn more about the process
of appointing a U.S. Supreme Court justice, watch our video here. Thanks for watching
TestTube News, be sure to like and subscribe for new videos everyday.

100 Responses

  1. TcRiverrat18 says:

    Our supreme Court actually has a surprisingly small amount of provisions in our Constitution.

  2. Furkan Tunçel says:

    How powerful is Azerbaijan?

  3. سلیمان ذوالفقار says:

    What would happen if US had second civil war?

  4. Sebastie Cortes says:

    how powerful is the CIA

  5. Mike N says:

    Please do Israel's violations of international law and human rights.

  6. Jobo says:

    Why is Test tube so leaned towards refugees?

  7. Random Person on the Internet says:

    Lissette perks up about Squarespace.

  8. Alex G says:

    What a shitty system.

  9. DeepBlue says:

    How powerful was the USSR??

  10. matthew bottari says:

    How powerful was the illuminati?

  11. Dan Nguyen says:

    How Powerful is Vietnam?

  12. Hunter Dischley says:

    Kim Jong Un for Supreme Court Justice

  13. dankwrasslin says:

    I volunteer to be nominated to the supreme court.

  14. jahzarah says:

    What did Costco do?

  15. TheRealFalkenmaster says:

    What if a case originated in the supreme court, and there was a tie, what happens then, TELL US NOW,

  16. Adam D says:

    well done female. do one one on the big cases pending in 2016 that are in limbo.

  17. fruitbag says:

    I wonder if they'll ever be sponsored by a large food corporation but the speaker has to present whilst wearing a chicken costume

  18. marimar.33 says:

    More videos like that 🙂

  19. Rachel Ross says:

    How powerful is the us Supreme Court tie

  20. Scootin Putin says:

    How powerful are the Maldives?

  21. Nadeslos says:

    Hey TestTube News! How about "Why Do Canada and the Netherlands Love Each Other?" That would be a great history lesson for everyone here.

  22. Salomon Villafuerte says:

    Hopefully a liberal gets appointed

  23. Don Vito says:

    How powerful is Macedonia?

  24. Jakob Holtz says:

    How powerful is Belarus

  25. Fire Man says:

    Our country is what made the republics/democracies of Europe, if it wasn't for the United States of America, Europe would still have kings and queens

  26. Jeremiah Jenkins says:

    Do a video on White Vans violations of international law

  27. FNA says:

    Do a video on annoying people that keep asking for videos about violation of international law.

  28. Moeillo says:

    How dangerous is Benjamin Netenyahu?

  29. XFTX XX says:

    Israel's violation international law

  30. Strikingly Good says:

    The answer is at 2:13 🙂

  31. Hyder Abbas says:

    What's the background music?

  32. Santiago Bron says:

    Lissette looks hot today.

  33. VG says:

    Ugh these videos are getting more boring, you guys need to do more "how powerful is" and "why do so and so and so and so hate way other?"

  34. Bargain Bucket says:


  35. Garoth Ursuul says:

    I had figured that the Chief Justice would hold all absentee votes by Proxy, which would prevent a tie.

  36. Scott Davis says:

    If their is a supreme court tie, whatever the ruling is/ was by the lower court is the one that is counted.

  37. MUGY says:

    How powerful is icejjfish

  38. Atlas says:

    What happens? The world goes boom

  39. StormzSR says:

    Anyone else see the dumb "Should the GOP fight Obama on gun control" ad?

  40. Jayslollipop says:

    Do a video on Palestine's violation of international law.

  41. sai76 says:

    Then they go into sudden death.

  42. Adam the Legend says:

    How corrupt is North Korea

  43. Samual Moor says:


  44. michael barton says:

    How powerful is Gabe newell?

  45. freezey600 says:

    Hillary Clinton 2016

  46. x1860munich says:

    How powerful is Belarus.

  47. Mr. Rychehead says:

    Did Somebody Ring The Dinkster?

  48. Hank Hill says:

    Hillary 2016 #I'MWITHHER

  49. Fajitahmed says:

    how powerful is bangladesh

  50. Aleem says:

    What are Israel's violations of International law?

  51. Don Quixote says:


  52. Michael Zhou says:

    Rock, Paper, Scissors obviously 😛

  53. James Robinson says:

    A question on Is Israel Fascist?

  54. henry kingfire says:

    How powerful is Kazakstan?

  55. Cade says:

    Unrelated to video but if China buys all American buildings and property in Oregon, does China own Oregon? I mean if they completely excluded the government from these deals with people, could they buy the land, bit by bit, without the United States' approval?

  56. Slightly OP says:

    Why do the US and the UK love each other?

  57. Edward Yan says:

    How does other nations succeed in single-payer healthcare system?

  58. Abdul Walid says:

    Lissette Padilla is beautiful

  59. MS 37 says:

    The issue is Obama will try to vote in someone FAR left

  60. Griffin Eckstein says:

    Do a video on how Israel and Palestine have committed equally terrible war crimes and both are still deserving of becoming nations.

  61. Micheal jason says:

    How powerful is United Arab Emirates? Like if you agree

  62. Cat- Daddy says:

    Do a video on Israel's violation of international law.

  63. jeddah,Saudi جداوي says:

    What's is Arianism ?

  64. falldown7x standup8 says:

    remember the usa  is a constitutional republic

  65. London CPH says:

    Shouldn't all judges be impartial? Isn't that the whole point of having a judge? That a judge just look at the facts and laws?

  66. Jonathanius02 says:

    How powerful is ikea

  67. roger brandt says:

    Loretta lynch or Eric holder or Michelle Obama or al sharpton please for justice.

  68. chongjunxiang3002 says:

    So, in the nutshell, there will be no judgment because of the intention of the supreme court is not appealing.

  69. Ali Ahmed T.V says:

    how powerfull pakistan intelligence ISI against CIA

  70. Ronnel Garcia says:

    Please do a video on how powerful is ASEAN.

  71. Creamofthecrop says:

    Kennedy seems like a great guy.

  72. 0011peace says:

    A constitutional Amendment can overrule and does a supreme court ruling. So if 3/4 of the states and 2/3 of both houses of congress decide the supreme court is wrong they can pass a constitutional amendment. And, the court ruling is invalid. The house is most likely body to reject an Amendment. As, Senate would likely have the same make up states since each state gets 2.

  73. Bigga Numba 6 says:

    they should just count Sotomayor's vote twice. there we go. end of discussion.

  74. Yovanny Ponce says:

    Am I the only one who finds this background music dope? 😂

  75. Paul Peterson says:

    Ties don't matter, at least not for long. A 4-4 tie without Scalia would have been a 5-4 conservative win without him, period. So anything that goes 4-4 can be settled later with a new justice; and almost certainly will be, since the court will want to take a new case to clarify the law. All a tie means is that a lower court ruling that might have been overturned 5-4 will stay in place for a year or two. Any ruling that might have been upheld 5-4 but resulted in a tie will get reheard either by a 5-4 liberal court or a 5-4 conservative court, again in the next couple of years.

  76. Paul Peterson says:

    BTW saying Kennedy is 50/50 conservative and liberal is factually incorrect. He's a very conservative justice, just not a radical like Thomas, Scalia and Aleto. He's voted with the conservative wing vastly more often than with the liberals.

  77. devil roy says:

    +TestTube News do a video on "Is Pakistan A failed-state"

  78. Águila701 says:

    Ruth Bader Ginsburg is my favorite supreme justice. Her name sounds like a sith lord.

  79. Águila701 says:


  80. Saint Boudreau says:

    the US supreme court should be dissolved   gop and dems want judges that serve their friends not the LAW……..the US supreme crt hears per year only 7% of writs properly presented to it with valid current law.    justice ?   we the people of the US need to do US congress BILLS to end the US supreme court and create  a COMPUTER system Law in…..case in …..JUSTICE out.

  81. Dennis Zaitsev says:

    Dear Test tube news,
    Please stop using this melancholic music. It can
    Make even some of the most joyous topics seem grim.

  82. ThePreston159 says:

    What happens if there is a tie on a case of which the Supreme Court had original jurisdiction?

  83. Ho Lee-Fuk says:

    😐 😕
    /l <👗
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    😉 😳
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    😚 😒
    /| <👗>
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    😍 ☺
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    😍 😍
    /| /👗
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    😘 😊
    /| /👗
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    😳 😁
    /| /👙
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    😈 /😰
    <| 👙
    /🍆 /

    / /\/

    // /

    // /

    😭 ☺
    /| /(👶)
    / /


  84. tramsgar says:

    Yawn Sorry you were saying?

  85. He Wu says:

    How powerful is this comment?

  86. Joseph says:

    Why America has just 9 justices?

  87. Srankiller12360 ttt says:

    I can't understand what see is telling about this debate! !!!!

  88. billy bob says:

    gay people have no rights

  89. apburner1 says:

    Roberts, conservative? What the fuck are you smoking?

  90. - says:

    why are the women standing up? THAT'S SEXIST

  91. Ry says:

    Obama has the right to appoint a Supreme Court justice, but the Senate has the right to disapprove and deny that appointment. Everyone may be angry with Republicans for blocking an Obama-appointed justice, but they are well within their rights in doing so.

  92. Silent CG says:

    What are Palestine's violations of International Law?

  93. Equun101 says:

    Coincidence how the three women are liberal and all bar one of the men are moderate to right leaning. I'm a guy and a liberal, but with such a small sample size it doesn't attest to much, it's just quite curious

  94. All men prepare your battle rifle for coming war says:

    There are famous people, because they accomplished something. There are people getting famous, because of gossip, but in action? Zero. So they cannot even begin the battle in the courthouse, because of zero.

  95. andrew sutherland says:

    I'm surprised that the whole video leads up to a basic "nothing really" answer but its even more suprising that most of the comments have nothing to do at all with anything in the video

  96. terry waller says:

    Simple a tie means the appeals court ruling stands and the ruling doesn't become the rule of precidents.

  97. Stacey Gamboa says:

    She didn't pronounce Appellate correctly.

  98. Le Huy Nguyen says:

    In the first years of US, there 6 Justices, and it not an odd number

  99. William Linde says:

    They are obstructing,judges are as much much more the problem , they are the blind, they claim.

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