High Court halts Mich. re­dis­trict­ing di­rec­tive

Jus­tices hold off on case amid sim­i­lar N.C., Md. re­views

The Detroit News - - FRONT PAGE - BY MELISSA NANN BURKE The Detroit News

Wash­ing­ton — The U.S. Supreme Court has is­sued a tem­po­rary hold on a fed­eral court or­der to re­draw leg­isla­tive and con­gres­sional dis­tricts in Michi­gan by Au­gust.

The jus­tices on Fri­day is­sued a brief or­der that stayed the April 25 de­ci­sion pend­ing the dis­po­si­tion of the ap­peal of the case or fur­ther or­der by the court.

Re­pub­li­can law­mak­ers two weeks ago filed an emer­gency re­quest ask­ing the Supreme Court to sus­pend the judg­ment of the lower court, pend­ing the out­come of sim­i­lar cases that the jus­tices are ex­pected to de­cide by July.

The Supreme Court heard ar­gu­ments in March in al­leged par­ti­san ger­ry­man­der­ing cases from North Carolina and Mary­land.

The High Court’s five con­ser­va­tive jus­tices asked at oral ar­gu­ments whether un­elected judges should po­lice the par­ti­san ac­tions of elected of­fi­cials.

The court is sim­ply hold­ing off on the Michi­gan case, in­clud­ing de­cid­ing the ap­peal, un­til it rules in the North Carolina and Mary­land cases, said Robert Sedler, a con­sti­tu­tional law ex­pert and pro­fes­sor at Wayne State Univer­sity Law School.

“It’s not sur­pris­ing that the court stayed this case un­til it de­cides the cases from North Carolina and Mary­land,” Sedler said.

“That will de­ter­mine whether the claim in this case — that the Con­sti­tu­tion pro­hibits po­lit­i­cal ger­ry­man­der­ing — is a vi­able claim. This is what the court typ­i­cally does when the re­sult in a lower court case is go­ing to be con­trolled by cases that the court is al­ready hear­ing.”

De­pend­ing on what the Supreme Court does in the two other cases, he said, one pos­si­bil­ity is the jus­tices could send the Michi­gan case back to the lower court for re­con­sid­er­a­tion in light of the High Court’s up­com­ing de­ci­sion.

Michi­gan’s Re­pub­li­can law­mak­ers had re­quested the stay in re­sponse to a three-judge panel that ruled unan­i­mously last month that cur­rent state­house and con­gres­sional maps ap­proved by the Leg­is­la­ture in 2011 are un­con­sti­tu­tional be­cause they di­luted the power of Demo­cratic vot­ers in an ef­fort to en­sure GOP power.

The rul­ing would have re­quired Michi­gan of­fi­cials to re­draw by Aug. 1 nearly three dozen con­gres­sional and leg­isla­tive dis­tricts for the 2020 elec­tion cy­cle and to hold spe­cial elec­tions two years early for the state Se­nate.

If state of­fi­cials did not fi­nal­ize new maps by then, the fed­eral court said it would draw new bound­aries it­self and could ap­point a spe­cial mas­ter to do so.

Lawyers for the Re­pub­li­can law­mak­ers had ar­gued that state leg­is­la­tors wouldn’t have suf­fi­cient time to re­draw the maps by the Dis­trict Court’s dead­line, in ad­di­tion to pass­ing a bud­get and leg­is­la­tion on auto in­surance and in­fra­struc­ture.

“The stay is good news for Michi­gan tax­pay­ers and al­lows us to wait for the Supreme Court’s up­com­ing sub­stan­tive de­ci­sion re­gard­ing whether courts must stay out of the po­lit­i­cal re­dis­trict­ing process,” said at­tor­ney Char­lie Spies, who is rep­re­sent­ing Re­pub­li­cans in the Michi­gan case.

The law­suit was filed on be­half of the League of Women Vot­ers of Michi­gan and some ag­grieved Democrats.

Their com­plaint was nar­rowed down to tar­get 34 of the state’s 162 con­gres­sional and leg­isla­tive dis­tricts that would need to be re­drawn, along with any bor­der­ing dis­tricts the

re­draw­ing would af­fect.

The Supreme Court’s or­der could also po­ten­tially de­lay the process of re­draw­ing the chal­lenged dis­tricts in Michi­gan for the du­ra­tion of the Re­pub­li­cans’ ap­peal in the case.

At­tor­neys for the plain­tiffs had ar­gued that the jus­tices should deny the re­quested stay be­cause it would have the ef­fect of deny­ing Michi­gan vot­ers the chance to vote in “con­sti­tu­tion­ally drawn” dis­tricts in 2020.

“If the dis­trict court’s judg­ment is stayed but ul­ti­mately af­firmed ... that fi­nal dis­po­si­tion would not oc­cur be­fore 2020,” the plain­tiffs’ at­tor­neys wrote.

“By then, draw­ing new dis­tricts be­fore statu­tory can­di­date­fil­ing dead­lines would be nearly im­pos­si­ble.”

Al­ter­na­tively, they ar­gued that the jus­tices should wait to rule on the stay re­quest un­til af­ter the North Carolina and Mary­land ger­ry­man­der­ing cases are de­cided this sum­mer.

“We are dis­ap­pointed with the Supreme Court’s de­ci­sion to put on hold the lower court’s re­quire­ment that the leg­is­la­ture re­draw Michi­gan’s dis­trict maps for the 2020 elec­tions,” said Nancy Wang, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the group Vot­ers Not Politi­cians.

Her group last year led a suc­cess­ful pe­ti­tion drive to have an in­de­pen­dent com­mis­sion start to draw po­lit­i­cal bound­aries be­gin­ning in the 2022 elec­tion cy­cle in­stead of state law­mak­ers.

“The three-judge panel unan­i­mously found the cur­rent maps are a ger­ry­man­der ‘of his­toric pro­por­tions,’” Wang added.

“We re­main com­mit­ted to do­ing ev­ery­thing in our power to en­sure the new re­dis­trict­ing process is suc­cess­ful so Michi­gan vot­ers are not sub­jected to maps that are rigged against them.”

Michi­gan Re­pub­li­can Party Chair­woman Laura Cox ap­plauded the court’s or­der­ing of a stay and called the law­suit a “des­per­ate at­tempt by par­ti­san Democrats to re­draw our state’s leg­isla­tive lines two years early.”

“This will al­low our Leg­is­la­ture to con­tinue fo­cus­ing on get­ting things done for the peo­ple of Michi­gan, in­stead of un­nec­es­sary par­ti­san bat­tles over po­lit­i­cal maps,” Cox said.

Michi­gan Demo­cratic Party Chair­woman La­vora Barnes said she was “more than dis­ap­pointed” in the Supreme Court’s de­ci­sion, “but we will not al­low Re­pub­li­can ger­ry­man­der­ing or ef­forts to si­lence our ci­ti­zens at the bal­lot box stand in the way of Democrats con­nect­ing with ev­ery Michi­gan voter.”

“The peo­ple of Michi­gan have al­ready spo­ken, and they want fair elec­tions and their voices heard — not af­ter the next elec­tion, not down the road — now,” Barnes said.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.