Image 01 Image 03

In blow to Republicans, Justice Alito denies emergency request to halt Pennsylvania redistricting

In blow to Republicans, Justice Alito denies emergency request to halt Pennsylvania redistricting

Denial allows Pennsylvania map re-drawing to go forward per order of state supreme court,_113th_Congress.tif

On January 22, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, on a 5—2 party-line vote, struck down the state’s congressional map and ordered the legislature to draw a new one by February 9. See my prior post, Bad news for GOP: Pennsylvania Supreme Court tosses state’s congressional maps.

Two members of PA’s state legislature—its Speaker of the House and president pro tempore of the Senate—quickly asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene and stay the ruling.

The request went to Justice Alito, who has responsibility for the Third Circuit.

This afternoon, Alito denied a stay, bringing the 14-day drama to an end. After requesting additional briefings from the legislators and plaintiffs in the case—leading observers to speculate that a majority might be seriously entertaining intervention—Alito denied the legislators’ application without comment and without even referring the request to the full court.

Most likely, he saw that there was no chance five justices would touch this, or wanted to send a message to Republicans that it’s hopeless to try to persuade the Court to involve itself in internal disputes between the branches of state governments—the Elections Clause notwithstanding (see prior post on this.)

While SCOTUS has intervened in Wisconsin, Texas, and North Carolina to block lower court rulings requiring re-districting before 2018, Pennsylvania seems to have been a bridge too far for the justices.

As I noted in my earlier piece, virtually no one was expecting SCOTUS to grant a stay, as it has in other gerrymandering disputes, because this re-districting was ordered by a state court on the basis of a state constitution, not a federal court on the basis of the Federal Constitution—as was the case in NC, TX and WI. Federal courts generally do not disturb a state court’s interpretation of state law.

In this particular instance though, that’s a shame because it just allows a partisan state court to draw the maps instead of a partisan state legislature—it’s not like the PA legislature’s map has been substituted for that of a computer or an independent commission. Perhaps the PA Supreme Court will decide to be “fair,” but there’s no guarantee that it will. Certainly no one can force it to be.

As it happens, the legislators are now asking two PA Supreme Court justices to recuse themselves due to their public statements in opposition to gerrymandering—a little late, no doubt.

The litigation will drag on, but the story is over. The decision stands and the districts will be redrawn.

The good thing for the GOP is that I may have previously exaggerated the impact re-districting will have: it turns out that new maps may not cost them more than two or three seats.

One of the most egregiously gerrymandered districts—Pennsylvania’s 7th—is currently represented by Patrick Meehan, who is retiring anyway due to reports that he used taxpayer money to settle a sexual harassment allegation.


Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.


Districts 6 7 and 13 are rotten gerrymandering. There are simple rules that could apply, as a matter of equity: (1) Honor local political boundaries scubas as counties, municipalities, school district boundaries. (2) Honor the economic-geography of human habitation, that is as the founders suggested in some writings: keep rural districts rural so their representative can represent the interests of the rural inhabitants when those are quite distinct from those of urban dwellers.

As you said, a state law case decided by the State Supreme Court – SCOTUS usually steers clear of those.

Alito is what an impartial Supreme Court justice looks like.

Compare to ruth ‘international law’ ginsberg.

The Supreme Court’s bias for ‘progressive’ plaintiffs:

And if you look at the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling, it violates the Pennsylvania Constitution. The Pennsylvania Constitution outlines exactly how a redistricting should occur, and that’s how it did occur.

Impeachment and removal from office for establishing a judicial tyranny is in order.

    Pennsylvania Constitution – Current
    Legislative Districts
    Section 16
    The Commonwealth shall be divided into fifty senatorial and two hundred three representative districts, which shall be composed of compact and contiguous territory as nearly equal in population as practicable. Each senatorial district shall elect one Senator, and each representative district one Representative. Unless absolutely necessary no county, city, incorporated town, borough, township or ward shall be divided in forming either a senatorial or representative district.

    via DUQUESNE UNIVERSITY web presence at time of posting

    As I wrote earlier there’s NO WAY the districts around Philly do that in re counties at least.

      Milhouse in reply to bvw. | February 6, 2018 at 8:45 am

      None of that has anything to do with congressional districts.

        And why not, for a good example — which the PA Constitution is regarding the other districts– would be equitable guidance in a matter of “equity”, and since “one man one vote” national congressional districts are matters of equity. That’s what one man, one vote means, all men are equal, and the PA Constitution’s GOOD guidance in re the state level districts applies as a matter of equity. The dust that falls off each man’s feet is equal.

          Milhouse in reply to bvw. | February 6, 2018 at 10:25 pm

          Um, what language was that in? It sounds astonishingly like English, but it’s not. Frisian, perhaps?

        Milhouse, as anyone ever suggested to you that our legal system is so corrupted BECAUSE of scoffers who act from endowed chairs and such in ways such as thou presenteth?

        There is a very clear provision in the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania regarding HOW electoral districts are to be set up. But, as any scoffer could say, and you did, that doesn’t specifically list the districts for the electors nor the representatives to the national assemblies. Yet it is a quite reasonable and clear guidance, full of common sense and equitable motive.

        But that is not enough for the likes of you?

        I remember Nixon, you are not Nixon. Nor are you a cartoon character created by Matt Groenig. But you present as pretension in your name, right? Now we know there was a “Brutus” and a “Pennsylvania Farmer”, but in their chosen aliases, pen names, they chose names with some significant meaning to the motive and philosophy they had.

        Can I suggest that you chose a cartoon character name from a cartoon show dedicated to cultural mocking and scoffing, some proper, much over the top and malicious — as the very name “Milhouse” was — for a reason of your chose motive and philosophy?

        What sayest thou, aye, man?

Do the Pennsylvania lawmakers get a another bite at the apple if they submit a new redistricting plan and the state supreme court rejects it and draws up a new redistricting plan themselves?

How can it possibly be Constitutional for a court do do so when the elections clause clearly says it’s the responsibility of the legislature.

    Milhouse in reply to Arminius. | February 5, 2018 at 10:39 pm

    Because the state constitution tells the legislature how it must carry out this function, and the state supreme court, whose job it is to interpret that constitution, has decided that the legislature has violated those provisions.

      gospace in reply to Milhouse. | February 6, 2018 at 12:00 am

      Right. And if you actually READ the Pennsylvania Constitution, it is the Pennsylvania Supreme Court that violated the Pennsylvania by first- accepting the case OURTSIDE the constitutionally restricted tine periods and is now ordering the legislature to violate the state constitution by redistricting themselves rather then following the states constitution directives to establish an independent commission to draw district lines, and if the legislature doesn’t violate the state constitution then the Pennsylvania Supreme Court states THEY’LL violate the Constitution and do it themselves. Because they’re judicial tyrants and above the law. The Pennsylvania is quite clear on the procedure to draw districts and the time period to challenge the redistricting. The PA SC is not interpreting the state constitution with penumbras and emanations and invisible ink between the lines- they’re completely f—ing ignoring it.

        Milhouse in reply to gospace. | February 6, 2018 at 8:23 am

        Evidently you have briefly skimmed the state constitution but not paid any attention to what you were reading. The PA constitution does not say one word about congressional redistricting. Not. One. Word. The court struck down the Congressional Redistricting Act for “clearly, plainly, and palpably” violating the constitution, but doesn’t specify how it does so. However the petitioners’ challenge raised claims involving the Speech Clause, the Free Association Clause, the Elections Clause, and the Equal Protection Clause, but not Art. II § 17 (Legislative Reapportionment Commission), because it clearly does not violate that section, which has nothing to do with it.

      Arminius in reply to Milhouse. | February 6, 2018 at 1:04 am

      And the state constitution is blatantly unconstitutional. One of the basic requirements for becoming a state is that nothing in the state constitution can conflict with the U.S. Constitution.

      Those judges are out of control with black robe fever if they think they can violate the U.S. Constitution and usurp a power that the Constitution clearly says belongs to the legislature. No exceptions.

        Milhouse in reply to Arminius. | February 6, 2018 at 8:43 am

        Nothing in the state constitution does contradict the US constitution. The US constitution says the state legislature shall prescribe the time, place, and manner of holding congressional elections, though Congress can override them. It doesn’t say the legislature must be completely free to make whatever prescriptions it likes.

        The legislature exists only by virtue of the state constitution, and that constitution may place whatever restrictions it likes on the legislature, and tell it how to do its job. If it were to prescribe in detail what prescriptions the legislature shall make for congressional elections, the legislature would have to follow them.

        In this case it doesn’t do that, but it does make general statements about rights, such as that “elections shall be free and equal”, which bind the legislature. The legislature may not make any prescription for congressional elections that results, in the state courts’ opinion, in unfree or unequal elections. And the state courts can order the legislature to obey these clauses, and provide remedies when it doesn’t.

        So far, none of this is in the least controversial. The only point of legitimate controversy is what sort of remedies the state courts can order when the legislature disobeys them in this regard. The state supreme court seems to have taken the view that it can substitute its own map for the legislature’s, as it clearly can for state elections. The text of the US constitution seems not to allow for this. But this is such a minor point that it’s unlikely to carry much weight with the present SCOTUS. De minimis non curat lex. Maybe after a few more changes on the Court, but maybe not even then.

So- if the legislature tells the PA SC “F U”, doesn’t redistrict, since it was done IAW the PA Constitution to begin with, and tells the election boards “You WILL use the existing districts!”- What’s the court going to do? Activate the National Guard and tell them to arrest all the legislators? Hold them all in contempt and order them jailed? Who are they going to get to enforce the order? I don’t live in PA, but methinks the legislators ought grow some testicles and ignore the court, and tell the court they’re ignoring an obviously unconstitutional power grab by tyrannical judges.

    Milhouse in reply to gospace. | February 5, 2018 at 10:35 pm

    The legislature can’t give orders to the election boards. The court can and will, and the boards will obey those orders, or they will be arrested.

      Arminius in reply to Milhouse. | February 6, 2018 at 1:07 am

      Of course they can, Milhouse. Those orders are known as laws. You may have heard of them. It’s what legislatures do.

        Milhouse in reply to Arminius. | February 6, 2018 at 7:54 am

        Laws are not orders. They are very different things, which you ought to know. The legislature cannot order anyone to do anything; the courts can. And the courts are the sole arbiters of whether the legislature’s laws are valid. So in any conflict the boards of election will obey the courts and not the legislature.

With one representative representing up to 600,000 people, it is ridiculous to pretend that ‘fair’ representation is even a possibility. All the PA court has accomplished is transfer the ‘spoils’ to other hands.

As a 72 year old man, I’ve never in my lifetime had a representative represent my interests. Living in a large city will do that to a conservative.

Now we have the makings of a PA constitutional crisis. The legislature will draw a new map which will be unacceptable to the court who will then impose their own map. If the legislature views the courts map as unconstitutional the courts map will not be implemented. This is about political power. Nothing more, nothing less.

    Milhouse in reply to kjon. | February 6, 2018 at 7:52 am

    On the contrary, it doesn’t matter what the legislature thinks about the court’s map, if there is a conflict the court’s map will be implemented and the legislature’s map will not. The court can give the boards of elections orders, and enforce them; the legislature can do neither.

The problem is that the boundaries are so obviously contrived to such a degree that even Alito couldn’t accept them. There is a simple solution — let a computer allocate the districts by drawing them such that all districts have equivalent population and the total boundary length (over the whole state) is minimized. You could pass a state law to implement that. Then it will never be an issue again.

    Milhouse in reply to NZ Willy. | February 6, 2018 at 8:13 pm

    The problem is that the boundaries are so obviously contrived to such a degree that even Alito couldn’t accept them.

    On the contrary, political gerrymandering has been before the court several times over the last 200 years, and it has never had a problem with it before. He turned this down because SCOTUS has to accept state supreme courts’ interpretation of their states’ laws, and the numbers aren’t there to overturn it on the dubious grounds that the US constitution gives state legislatures the authority to decide the time, place, and manner in which congressional elections shall be held (subject to Congress’s override).

I like the way this works*:

There’s precisely nothing in the State’s Constitution on US Congressional Districts, which by the US Constitution are to be drawn by the State’s legislature.

State Supreme Court declares, based on precisely no reason anyone can identify, that the districts they drew somehow violate the State’s Constitution, and declares that if they aren’t redrawn to their liking that they will take it upon themselves to redraw them.

So, no matter what, the districts will be drawn how the Court, which has zero authority to redistrict, prefers. The legislature will either redraw them to the Court’s specifications or the Court will, themselves, draw them that way. And, of course, it will simply by partisan gerrymandering being done by the politicians sitting on the Bench. There will be NOTHING “fair” about it. It will be done in a way that will benefit Democrats as much as possible.

*or, I would if I were a Dictator, I mean, a State Supreme Court Justice.

This is simply a blatant power grab – a usurpation of the legislature’s clearly defined Constitutional authority by the court.

    Milhouse in reply to Aarradin. | February 7, 2018 at 4:45 pm

    It’s not as if nobody can identify the reason; the plaintiffs briefed several reasons, so it stands to reason that it’s one or more of those. And it is the state supreme court’s role to interpret the state constitution, including the general provisions that require fairness and equity and all that other nonspecific stuff.

    The US constitution has the 14th amendment which also imposes these nonspecific requirements, and the state court could have struck down the districting on that basis, but then the federal courts could get involved, and SCOTUS has already said many times that while the 14th requires states to draw their congressional districts with roughly equal populations, and forbids them from gerrymandering the districts for the purpose of reducing the political clout of racial minorities, it doesn’t forbid doing so for partisan political purposes. So the PA court couldn’t say it does; but it can say that similar provisions in the state constitution do forbid it.