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Oral Argument Heard in Maryland Redistricting Case

By George Khoury, Esq. | Last updated on

Reports from today's oral arguments at the United States Supreme Court explain that the justices kept their poker faces on when it came to partisan gerrymandering. Apart from Justices Sotomayor and Kagan's clearly anti-partisan gerrymandering line of questions, there didn't seem to be any indication of which side was winning.

The Benisek v. Lamone case is a little bit different than the Gil case which was heard last fall. One significant difference that has been getting quite a bit of attention is the fact that this case focuses on a gerrymander in favor of democrats, while Gil's gerrymandering favored republicans. Pundits posit that the High Court took up this case specifically to be able to rule on the issue of partisan gerrymandering without appearing political by letting each faction win (or lose) one case.

Too Early to District

Curiously, the Benisek matter is procedurally challenged. As Justice Ginsburg's early questioning focused, the challengers in the matter are appealing the denial of a preliminary injunction. Notably, Ginsburg cut to the heart of the matter when she asked how irreparable harm would attach given that the redistricting plan wouldn't be used in the district until 2020. The Chief Justice also noted that the challengers waited until after the map had been used in elections to bring their challenge, questioning whether irreparable harm could even be alleged under the facts.

More Redistricting Argument?

Justice Breyer, seemingly not convinced one way or the other, proposed that the Benisek, Gil, and even the other pending North Carolina redistricting case, return to SCOTUS for one big oral argument, where the Court could resolve all the legal issues in one shot. And while the other justices didn't seem to jump at this idea, the justice was clearly trying to give all the lawyers in these cases what is so desperately needed: an actual workable standard to apply to these types of cases.

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