Justice Samuel Alito acted quickly this afternoon to grant a request by Texas officials to block a lower court’s order that had invalidated the state’s maps for the Texas House of Representatives, the lower house of the Texas legislature. Today’s order putting the lower court’s ruling on hold came shortly after state officials filed their request, and only a few days after the justice, acting alone, agreed to the state’s request to stay an order by the same court invalidating two of the state’s federal congressional districts. Like Monday’s order in the congressional redistricting case, today’s temporary stay relieved the state of its obligation to comply with a rapidly approaching deadline to redraw the maps.
The filing came in a case that began as a challenge to the redistricting maps drawn by the Texas legislature after the 2010 census. In 2013, the legislature adopted a court-ordered interim map. But last week the three-judge district court struck down the existing plan. And as it had after invalidating two of the state’s federal congressional districts, the district court ordered the state to act quickly to formulate new maps: The court gave the governor three days to decide whether to call a special session of the legislature, and it commanded the state to be ready to redraw the maps on September 6.
In today’s filing, Texas officials complained that the district court’s ruling on the Texas House maps “relies on the same grievously flawed conception of intentional discrimination that pervades its order” on the federal congressional maps – the idea that, when it adopted the court-ordered interim map almost in its entirety, the legislature retained the discriminatory intent underlying the map that was enacted in 2011 but never went into effect. Therefore, the officials urged, the justices should not “treat the district court’s erroneous and onerous order on the Texas House maps (Plan H358) any different from its erroneous and onerous order on Texas’s congressional maps.” Judging by the speed with which he granted the state’s request, Alito apparently agreed. He directed the challengers to file their response by 3 p.m. on September 7.