The Supreme Court on Thursday declined to revive a district court hearing to craft a new Louisiana congressional map that the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals had unceremoniously canceled in late September.
Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson wrote in concurrence to clarify that the Supreme Court was not greenlighting the Fifth Circuit’s interference in the case — which experts told TPM was bizarre.
“Nothing in our decision not to summarily reverse the Fifth Circuit should be taken to endorse the practice of issuing an extraordinary writ of mandamus in these or similar circumstances,” she wrote.
She continued on that she understood the Fifth Circuit’s canceling of the hearing to be solely in service of giving the Louisiana legislature time to consider alternative maps. Now that state officials have said that they won’t consider other maps while this case is pending, she said, she expects the crafting of the remedial maps by the lower court to continue as planned.
“The District Court will presumably resume the remedial process while the Fifth Circuit considers the State’s appeal of the preliminary injunction,” she wrote.
The Louisiana redistricting case is one that was tied to the Alabama decision the Supreme Court handed down this summer. It was a surprise victory for the Voting Rights Act, and led many experts to expect that contested maps in other states — Louisiana’s among them — would soon be knocked down in favor of those with greater minority representation. But red state officials have struggled mightily against that current.
In Louisiana, as the district judge scheduled a hearing to craft a remedial map, the better to have one ready to go if the state’s appeals fail, state officials lobbed a Hail Mary to the Fifth Circuit, asking the judges to cancel the hearing. In a highly unusual move, the Fifth Circuit panel complied.
Experts told TPM that it was “striking” to see an appellate court micromanaging a lower court’s docket this way. And they worried that the move from state officials — and acquiescence from the Fifth Circuit panel — is all in service of slow-walking fixing the maps, so the state has to conduct another election without crafting an additional likely Democratic House seat.
Read the Court’s order here: