The Court’s Stay in the LA Redistricting Case

As I noted earlier on this blog, the Court was faced with a procedural mess (I called it a “train wreck”) in the LA redistricting case. Two different federal courts had issued two decisions which left LA with no valid congressional map in place. The first federal court said LA’s original map violated the Voting Rights Act; the second federal court said the new map LA enacted to remedy the VRA violation itself violated the Constitution.

Today, the Court stayed that second decision. The effect of that stay is the state’s remedial map — which creates 2 VRA districts rather than just the 1 the state had created initially — will be the map LA uses this fall.

The stay application apparently got tangled up with Purcell issues, but the Court didn’t have to say anything about Purcell even if it were going to issue the stay. The Court was up against some tight deadlines regardless of any issue about Purcell. It basically had two options:

  1. The Secretary of State represented very forcefully to the Court that she had to know which map was in place by today, in order to meet the series of deadlines the state’s election laws rolled out from here on in. If the Court accepted those representations, then the case for issuing a stay was strong.
  2. The other side disputed whether May 15th was such a firm deadline. If the Court thought there was a bit more play in the joints, then it did not have to issue the stay today. The Court could have given a couple more weeks for the next stage of the remedial process to play out (the lower court had stated it would have a remedial map in place by June 4th). Justice Jackson’s dissent disagreed that the May 15th deadline was so important, but didn’t explain why; she simply noted that the lower court had disagreed with the Secretary of State’s representation.

The majority could have said we aren’t in a position to second guess the Secretary of State’s representation that May 15th is a firm deadline by which a map must be in place in order to meet the rest of the election deadlines under the state’s laws. Because we accept that representation, we issue the stay. That would not require invoking Purcell or deciding how it ought to apply in this procedurally messy situation. Since I would imagine the Secretary of State’s representation did play a major role in the Court’s stay decision, the Court could have justified the stay, if it accepted the SOS’s representation, without bringing Purcell into the picture.

Share this: