Scalia’s death means loss of key vote in divided cases

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WASHINGTON — Justice Antonin Scalia’s death deprives conservatives of a key vote that could change the outcome in some major Supreme Court cases.

That includes one in which labor unions appeared headed for a big defeat.

Next month’s Supreme Court arguments in a clash over contraceptives, religious liberty and President Barack Obama’s health care law also now seem more likely to favor the administration.

Those are the most immediate effects on the court of the loss of its conservative icon and longest-serving justice.

It’s a firm Supreme Court rule that decisions aren’t final until they’re handed down. So nothing Scalia did or said in pending cases matters to the outcome.