Supreme Court Smacks Down Alabama’s Map Stay Request

The U.S. Supreme Court Court in Washington, D.C., U.S. Photographer: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg
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The Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected Alabama’s stay request, the first sign that it will not be blithely compliant with state officials’ attempts to undo the high Court’s June ruling knocking down its maps. 

There were no public dissents, nor any additional explanation beyond the one-sentence stay denial. 

In its June ruling, the 5-4 majority — with Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh joining the liberals — ordered that Alabama redraw its maps with an additional Black majority district (or “something quite close to it,” Roberts wrote). 

Instead, the Alabama legislators produced another map with only one Black majority district and defiantly submitted it to a panel of federal judges. The panel nixed that map too, asserting that it was “troubled” by the “extraordinary circumstance” of the legislators totally disregarding the court’s instruction. 

So Alabama officials turned to the stay request. They rested their ask on eyebrow-raising rationale, including that the court would have had to start the entire Voting Rights Act assessment and evidentiary hearing from the beginning because the legislature produced a new (still noncompliant) map. The officials also wrote that they simply disagreed with the lower court’s ruling — so there. 

“We consumed more than 200 pages trying to consider every argument the Secretary made about the 2023 Plan, and the Secretary has not pointed us to a single specific error or omission,” the panel of judges responded earlier this month. “If it were enough for a stay applicant merely to assert a ‘fundamental disagreement’ with an injunction, stay motions would be routinely (perhaps invariably) granted. That is not the rule.”

The officials then elevated the stay request to the Supreme Court, where Justice Clarence Thomas set a response deadline early last week. 

The comfort with which Alabama officials ignored both the Supreme Court and the federal panel reveals both how accustomed to winning right-wing litigants have become under the 6-3 supermajority, and how confident they are that they can flip a member of the narrow majority. The Alabama officials reportedly think that the June Supreme Court decision was mostly constrained to the legitimacy of the lower court’s stay order — despite Roberts’ extensive writing on the merits — and believe Kavanaugh is open to changing his mind, according to the Alabama Political Recorder

At least on this procedural step, the Court declined to accede to the Alabama politicians’ demands. 

Read the orders here:

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