Republican lawmakers in Michigan and Ohio asked the Supreme Court to temporarily block lower court decisions ordering them to produce new district lines for their congressional and state legislative maps.
Both applications were presented to Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who reviews emergency applications arising from the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers Michigan and Ohio. Sotomayor may ask both sides to submit further briefs, refer the matters to the full Court for consideration, or both.
The applications come as the Supreme Court is considering related challenges from Maryland and North Carolina, which ask whether and how federal courts should police partisan gerrymandering. Decisions in those cases will bear directly on the Michigan and Ohio disputes, since all four matters present similar issues.
In the Ohio case, the lower court ordered the state to produce a new map by June 14. There is a good chance the Maryland and North Carolina disputes will not be decided at that time. Ohio Republicans said that could cause ordinary people to conclude that the lower court is trying to impose a new map on the state before the Supreme Court has any chance at getting involved. (RELATED: Trump Administration Will Ask Supreme Court To End Nationwide Injunctions)
“When the intelligent man on the street learns that the district court ordered the general assembly to redraw all of its congressional districts mere weeks before this Court may declare the exercise unnecessary, he is likely to ask why,” Ohio Republicans wrote in their application to the high court. “Why did the court not set a mid-July deadline? Or August, as in the similar case out of Michigan?”
“Unfair though it may be, a great many intelligent people on the street are likely to view the lower court’s decision as an attempt to evade or frustrate Supreme Court review,” they added.
In that vein, lawyers for Michigan Republicans said the remedial actions the lower court ordered “must be done under unsettled legal principles that this Court is currently reviewing in other cases.” Michigan has until August 1 to create a new map.
The Supreme Court has struggled mightily with partisan line-drawing disputes in the modern period. Though at times a majority of justices seemed to agree that gerrymandering violates the Constitution, the Supreme Court has emphasized as recently as 2018 that the power of federal courts to resolve gerrymandering cases, and how they should do so, remains an open question.
A decision from the high court may follow in the coming days.
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