Breaking News: Supreme Court Will Hear Texas Redistricting Cases

SCOTUSBlog: “The Supreme Court, working late on a Friday, agreed to rule on the constitutionality of three redistricting plans for the two houses of the Texas legislature and its U.S. House of Representatives delegation, and put on hold temporarily a U.S. District Court’s interim maps.”

Here is the Court’s order.

Given what the Court did, with no stated dissents, it is not clear why this had to wait until Friday at 7 pm eastern to issue.

More importantly, it is also not clear what is supposed to happen now in Texas.  What districts can be used, if the districts crafted by the three-judge court are now “stayed pending further order of this Court?”

The case will be argued on January 9.  It is possible the Court will grant an interim order before then addressing which districts should be used. (Perhaps that was the reason for the delay, and it did not come together.  Were they cobbling together a plan and/or an order?  Were there dissents?)  Or the Court may try to rush an opinion soon after argument.

Notably, what the Court did not do is remand the case to the lower court to redraw the districts with greater deference to the Texas-submitted plans (as Texas had requested).  My surmise is that the second opinion issued by that court, the one Judge Smith in dissent characterized as having the “smell of brief on appeal,” could well have caused the Supreme Court to lose faith in whether the lower court would faithfully carry out such an order.

And now the Supreme Court is going to be thrust in the unusual position of deciding a case with immediate partisan consequences.  It is no exaggeration to say that with three or four additional Democratic seats at issue under the original Court-drawn plan, the decision could help decide control of the House.

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