Now the country's leadership is at an interesting fork in the political road. President Obama has said he will be appointing a new Justice, despite calls from Republican candidates for President to wait until the inauguration so the next leader can make that decision. In looking at the data, the largest amount of time needed for Senate confirmation of Presidential appointee was 415 days under President Nixon, because "it took President Nixon three months to make a nomination because his first choice declined the offer. Second, the first two nominees were advocates of racial segregation and were rejected by the Senate." It is very likely that President Obama, then, will be able to appoint the next Justice within his time in left in office (~340 days).
So how does this affect the upcoming court cases, including the Friedrichs case concerning mandatory Union dues?
According to ScotusBlog, it puts the Supreme Court in an awkward place where any court cases that might have been a 5-4 majority in either a liberal or conservative direction are now in a dead heat and may never come into the light. Since Friedrichs was one of these, it is possible that Diane Ravitch is correct when she wrote "because of Justice Scalia’s death, the Friedrichs case could end in a 4-4 deadlock, leaving the current laws unchanged." That being said, it is possible that the Justices will hear other cases in the meantime until a new appointee comes in and then vote with that new Justice.
Where things were confusing and upsetting before politically now they are even more unclear. The media, I'm sure, will be having a field day over the next few months with the presidential election and the Justice appointment. We shall see the outcome together.