“Nonnonjusticiability”

Joey Fishkin:

If you read Justice Kennedy’s opinion in Vieth in 2004 together with the Court’s opinions this morning in Gill v. Whitford and Benisek, at some point it begins to become apparent that although everyone on both sides of the sharply pitched debate about the constitutionality of partisan gerrymandering is desperate for a victory in the Supreme Court, Justice Kennedy is strongly disinclined to provide such a victory to anybody. His dogged insistence on finding creative ways to avoid deciding these cases, even at significant cost to doctrinal coherence, at some point begins to suggest the possibility that his actual preference is for what we might call nonnonjusticiability: the vaguely Schrodingeresque state of affairs in which the legally correct answer to the question of whether such a constitutional claim can proceed or is dead is “maybe.”  The Court could continue to hold partisan gerrymandering claims nonnonjusticiable, if it wishes, right up until the 2020 Census, a state of affairs that would be unlikely to strike too much fear into the hearts of increasingly confident partisan gerrymanderers, with their increasingly impressive data and software. But, maybe just a little teensy bit of fear. After all, you never know when a nonnonjusticiable claim might suddenly get justiched—that’s the nature of nonnonjusticiability. Perhaps we should take seriously the possibility that this teensy amount of fear is the precise amount Justice Kennedy views as optimal. Anyway, today’s decisions might at least permit a little bit of development of partisan gerrymandering doctrine in some lower courts (development that often tends to be stunted in redistricting law by the special three-judge court system).

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