The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the Texas redistricting cases today, but much of the discussion was focused on issues of the Court’s jurisdiction and the process by which the consolidated cases made their way to the Court.
“The Texas Legislature did not have a racially discriminatory purpose when it adopted the entire court-ordered congressional remedial plan and virtually all of the remedial state house plan,” Solicitor General Scott Keller told the justices in his opening argument. He was swiftly cut off by Justice Sotomayor, who questioned whether the Court had jurisdiction to hear the case at all.
“By not waiting for the remedy in this case, we are not in a position to be fully informed” about whether the maps’ majority/minority districts could be improved, Sotomayor said. Justice Breyer opined that allowing this appeal without a final judgment or injunction would open the door to “50,000 appeals” to the Court. Being “ordered to consult with mapdrawers” is not an injunction, he said. Justice Kagan said there was a difference between a court finding constitutional fault with a district and the remedial process which takes place following such a finding. An injunction against using deficient districts in an upcoming election comes “only at the end of that process, customarily.” She agreed with Breyer that the effect would be greenlighting appeals “straight away after the liability stage” instead of after the remedial stage. Keller argued that the state would have been held in contempt if it did not follow the district court’s instructions.
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