STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Supreme Court appears closely divided over Texas district maps

The Supreme Court was sharply divided on Tuesday as the justices considered a lower court opinion that invalidated co...

Posted: Apr 24, 2018 10:41 PM
Updated: Apr 24, 2018 10:41 PM

The Supreme Court was sharply divided on Tuesday as the justices considered a lower court opinion that invalidated congressional and statehouse maps in Texas, holding that they discriminated against minority voters.

Last fall, in an early indication that the case could break down along ideological lines, the justices split 5-4 and voted to freeze the lower court opinion while the court considered the case.

It was that order, which likely means that the disputed maps will be used in the upcoming midterm elections, that infuriated the liberal justices on Tuesday who suggested that the Supreme Court had stepped in prematurely and therefore had no jurisdiction to hear the challenge.

While the district court had issued a ruling invalidating the districts it had not yet taken the final step of telling the state how to redraw the maps.

What ends the case, said Justice Sonia Sotomayor, is a "final injunction." Other liberal justices, Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer, had a similar sentiment.

The conservatives did not focus as much on the threshold question of the court's ability to decide the issue and Chief Justice John Roberts suggested that Texas legislature deserved "some presumption of good faith."

The case is the latest in a series of voting rights cases the Supreme Court is hearing this term including two partisan gerrymander cases and another challenge to Ohio's system for purging voters from its rolls.

Josh Douglas, an election law expert at the University of Kentucky College of Law, says that if the justices rule in favor of the challengers in the case and find intentional discrimination in how the Republicans drew the lines, it could be a watershed ruling.

"If the court rules against Texas, the justices would be saying that the Republican-controlled legislature had an improper racial motive," he said.

Tuesday, the conservative justices focused on the unusual circumstances in the case and did not seem inclined to agree with the lower court, in the case that has been caught up in the courts for almost a decade.

After the last census, voting rights groups such as the Southern Coalition for Social Justice and the Mexican American Legal Defense Education Fund challenged the maps drawn in 2011 by the Republican-led legislature.

They won the challenge when a three-judge court of the District Court for the Western District of Texas held that the maps were intentionally discriminatory and proceeded to order new interim maps to be drawn up for the next election. The court stressed that its ruling was not a final judgment, but necessary due to impending election deadlines.

The legislature subsequently adopted those maps -- called Plan C235 -- on a permanent basis while the litigation continued.

After a trial in 2017, the district court then invalidated two districts of Plan C235. The court noted that "specific portions" of the 2011 plans that were found to be discriminatory or unconstitutional "continue unchanged." In a similar case the court also invalidated several state legislative districts.

"The discriminatory taint was not removed by the Legislature's enactment of the court's interim plans, because the Legislature engaged in no deliberative process to remove any such taint, and in fact intended any such taint to be maintained but be safe from remedy," wrote US District Court Judge Xavier Rodriguez of the Western District of Texas.

Lawyers for Texas say the maps should stand, particularly because they were imposed by the court and adopted by the legislature. Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller told the justices that the legislature was not "trying to pull a fast one," and he suggested that the district court's opinion was wrong to say the legislature had engaged in intentional discriminated when it adopted -- as its own -- the same plans that the court had ordered the state to use in the 2012 election.

"The Texas legislature did not have a racially discriminatory purpose when it adopted the entire court-ordered congressional remedial plan and virtually all of the remedial state house plan," Keller said.

In court, the conservative justices suggested they agreed with Texas. Roberts said there was a "strong" argument that the legislature adopted a court drawn plan, and asked if that didn't demonstrate "good faith" on the part of the law makers. Justice Samuel Alito agreed that the district court drew the interim plans after a "thorough analysis."

Lawyers for the challengers emphasized that when the district court allowed the maps back in 2012, it was simply a preliminary ruling before an impending election. Allison Riggs of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice said that afterward the court "sussed out" a troubling pattern aimed at discriminating against minorities. She said the only reason the state had adopted the plans was in order to end the litigation and muffle the voices of minorities.

The ruling in the case is due by late June, but Douglas points out that in 2020, after the next census, states will have to once again redraw lines.

"Depending on the court's ruling, the Texas case could have a meaningful impact on how states all over the country draw their next maps," he said.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 313942

Reported Deaths: 7240
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto21580258
Hinds20330415
Harrison17879309
Rankin13594278
Jackson13429246
Madison10088217
Lee9970174
Jones8370163
Forrest7670152
Lauderdale7188241
Lowndes6387146
Lamar622486
Lafayette6184118
Washington5332133
Bolivar4801132
Oktibbeha462198
Panola4582106
Pearl River4506146
Marshall4435103
Warren4386121
Pontotoc420172
Monroe4107133
Union410076
Neshoba4030176
Lincoln3962110
Hancock378486
Leflore3493125
Sunflower335990
Tate333384
Pike3316105
Scott315773
Alcorn312768
Yazoo311469
Itawamba299777
Copiah296865
Coahoma295179
Simpson294988
Tippah288168
Prentiss279760
Adams278782
Marion269080
Leake267473
Wayne262641
Grenada261386
Covington258281
George247848
Newton246261
Winston227081
Tishomingo226667
Jasper221048
Attala214273
Chickasaw207757
Holmes188873
Clay185254
Stone182433
Tallahatchie178541
Clarke177980
Calhoun170532
Yalobusha164238
Smith162334
Walthall133945
Greene130533
Lawrence128524
Montgomery126742
Noxubee126734
Perry126338
Amite123042
Carroll121828
Webster114532
Jefferson Davis107033
Tunica105226
Claiborne102430
Benton99525
Humphreys96533
Kemper95728
Franklin83623
Quitman80716
Choctaw76318
Wilkinson67230
Jefferson65528
Sharkey50217
Issaquena1686
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 531404

Reported Deaths: 10985
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson765501522
Mobile41036805
Madison34789503
Tuscaloosa25788453
Montgomery24340589
Shelby23449249
Baldwin21154308
Lee15882171
Calhoun14511314
Morgan14306279
Etowah13843353
Marshall12232223
Houston10570281
Elmore10068205
Limestone9974151
Cullman9676194
St. Clair9661243
Lauderdale9427241
DeKalb8831186
Talladega8227176
Walker7241277
Autauga6926108
Jackson6814112
Blount6678137
Colbert6306134
Coffee5519119
Dale4838111
Russell441538
Chilton4296112
Franklin426082
Covington4129118
Tallapoosa4023152
Escambia393677
Chambers3573123
Dallas3551152
Clarke351161
Marion3122101
Pike310977
Lawrence300398
Winston274473
Bibb260964
Geneva250477
Marengo249564
Pickens234461
Barbour231057
Hale223077
Butler216069
Fayette212562
Henry188844
Cherokee185245
Randolph180542
Monroe177540
Washington167339
Macon159650
Clay156756
Crenshaw152557
Cleburne148941
Lamar142535
Lowndes138853
Wilcox127130
Bullock122841
Conecuh110529
Perry107726
Coosa107628
Sumter104732
Greene92534
Choctaw60724
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Partly Cloudy
52° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 52°
Columbus
Partly Cloudy
52° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 52°
Oxford
Cloudy
50° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 50°
Starkville
Mostly Cloudy
50° wxIcon
Hi: 71° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 50°
The sunshine becomes even more dominant as we roll into late-week. Temperatures will gradually climb as a result. But at night, low humidity and very little cloud coverage will make for some cool mornings.
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather