Why Did Federal Court Issue 600 Pages of Opinions and Findings in Non-Urgent Texas Redistricting Case?

I noted last night the rulings in the long-awaited Texas redistricting case.

I and many others have been extremely critical of the very long delays in the case. I see the release late Friday night when early Monday morning would do as either a signal that this was put out the very minute it was ready.

It was Judge Smith, in the dissent, who defended the delay, and said the record was huge and the findings difficult:

The majority’s massive product, including its opinion and its findings and conclusions, is commendable, to say the least. I trust that the attorneys and litigants appreciate the efforts of my two colleagues and their staffs. Though I disagree with a good number of their ultimate conclusions, no one can reasonably question the integrity and dedication that underlie each statement and every decision. The majority’s detailed recitation of the record is remarkable in its detail. It is evenhanded, thorough, and fair. It will permit the Supreme Court, on direct appeal, the opportunity to know every nuance of the case in the unlikely event that that Court concludes that the matter is not moot.

There is good news and bad news from the fact that the majority has tackled this colossal task with such proficiency. The good news is that, as I have already said, the reviewing court—as well as the public and, perhaps ultimately the legislature—has the advantage of a full record and a complete explication of the majority’s conclusions. The bad news is that that project has taken about 2 1/2 years to complete, measured from the end of trial in August 2014.

No one can reasonably criticize the delay. Some of the parties have made repeated but polite inquiries and have filed motions reminding the court of the need for expeditious resolution in light of the statutory schedule for the 2018 elections. I can appreciate the litigants’ and attorneys’ frustration that these proceedings have pended for almost six years. But assuming that this panel needed to wade through the huge record and caselaw to announce a result (beyond a declaration of mootness), the time it spent was absolutely necessary.

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