In a one-sentence order issued this afternoon, Justice Samuel Alito blocked an order by a federal district court in Texas that had invalidated two congressional districts in that state. Officials in Texas had asked the district court to put its order on hold to give it time to appeal to the Supreme Court, but the lower court had declined to do so. Last week state officials went to the Supreme Court, where they found a more sympathetic audience in Alito, who handles emergency appeals from the geographic area that includes Texas.
The district court’s decision, issued earlier this month, invalidated two districts in the congressional redistricting map, which the Texas legislature had enacted in 2013. The district court reasoned that although the 2013 plan was based on a 2012 plan that the court itself had adopted in the wake of a challenge to the legislature’s 2011 plan, the two districts at issue had remained the same as under the 2011 plan. One of those districts intentionally diluted the votes of Hispanic residents, the court concluded, while the other relied too heavily on race. The district court ordered the state to either call a special legislative session or return to court on September 5 with experts and a proposal for new maps.
Today’s order – which came from Alito himself, rather than the full nine-member court – relieves the state of its obligation to comply with the deadlines imposed by the district court. Instead, Alito instructed the challengers to respond to the state’s request by the afternoon of September 5; the order indicates that the district court’s order will remain on hold until the response is received and either the Supreme Court or he takes further action on the state’s request.
This post was originally published at Howe on the Court.