Supreme Court Puts North Carolina Redistricting Ruling on Hold

In ealry January a three-judge federal court struck down North Carolina’s 2016 Congressional redistricting plan concluding it was an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander designed to favor Republican candidates. Meanwhile the Supreme Court has agreed to decide two cases this term involving the question of whether and when partisan gerrymandering is unconstitutional. Read more about the North Carolina case and the lower court ruling here.

The federal court ordered the state legislature to come up with a new plan by January 24. The Supreme Court put that order on hold allowing the Republican legislators defending the plan to appeal to the Supreme Court.

The legislators defending the plan described the lower court opinion as “adopting multiple entirely novel theories of partisan gerrymandering.” And they point out that the Supreme Court stayed the three-judge federal court order requiring the Wisconsin legislature to come up with new maps after ruling its plan constituted an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander.

Challengers argued that the Republican legislators were unable to meet the standard for granting a stay—likelihood the lower court’s judgment will be reversed. “Applicants soft-pedal the shocking facts of this case . . . which violate the Constitution under any rubric for partisan-gerrymandering claims that [the Supreme] Court could conceivably adopt in the pending [Wisconsin and Maryland] cases.”

The Supreme Court didn’t state the reasons why it granted the stay. Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor would have denied the stay.

At this point it seems very likely that no new maps will be drawn in North Carolina before the 2018 election. As the challengers point out the filing period for North Carolina’s primary opens on February 12. The earliest the Supreme Court is likely to hear oral argument in this case is fall 2018. It is also possible the Supreme Court could send this case back to the North Carolina three-judge court in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Wisconsin and Maryland cases. Those cases are unlikely to be decided until June 2018.