Wednesday, December 9, 2015

SCOTUS hears arguments on Arizona maps

NBC News has the (short) recap of the arguments presented to the Supreme Court yesterday (Tuesday) in the matter of Harris v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission. Here's a sample.

At issue is whether minor population differences among districts are acceptable if they were done for partisan advantage or to comply with a now-defunct provision in the Voting Rights Act.

Justice Antonin Scalia suggested it would be tough to show any misconduct if the commissioners thought their actions were done to meet the Voting Rights Act.

"That doesn't show a bad motive on their part, does it?" Scalia asked Mark Hearne, a lawyer representing the challengers.

Justice Anthony Kennedy seemed to agree, telling Hearne that if the commission had a good faith belief its actions were proper, "then you have a problem."

Hearne said any action based on partisan ideology means there was "an illegitimate purpose," even though a lower court found that the predominant motive was trying to get the plan cleared by the Justice Department.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the end result was that the plan actually gave Republicans more than their proportional share of seats in the state legislature.

If there was an attempt to stack this in favor of Democrats, it certainly failed," she said.

Hearne said an "incompetent gerrymander" is no better than one that worked

I trust I am not the only one to note the irony in a Republican lawyer attacking gerrymandering.

Again I point to the implications of a ruling against the AZ maps.

A brief submitted by several former Justice Department officials warned that a ruling against the Arizona commission could throw out more than 1,000 other redistricting plans around the country.

AZBlueMeanie has a longer version of the arguments and offers a cautionary note about figuring out what the judges will do from the arguments they poke at.

It is never a good idea to predict the outcome of a case from questions at oral argument, since judges frequently play devil’s advocate to test a litigant’s position. After reading the transcript in this case, that caution is more warranted.

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