Federal Court Throws Out GOP Challenge of Pennsylvania District Maps [Updated]

Written by SK Ashby

Good news -- a panel of judges from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania has thrown out the GOP's challenge of the new congressional district map drawn by the state Supreme Court.

In their ruling, the judges wrote that the plaintiffs (a small group of lawmakers rather than the entire legislature) have no standing to ask the court to intervene in matters between the state legislature and the state judiciary.

The three-judge panel issued its decision with just one day left for the state’s congressional candidates to circulate petitions to get on the May 15 primary ballot. It said it had no authority to act in the matter except to dismiss the case.

“The plaintiffs invite us to opine on the appropriate balance of power between the Commonwealth’s legislature and judiciary in redistricting matters, and then to pass judgment on the propriety of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s actions under the United States Constitution,” the judges wrote. “These are things that, on the present record, we cannot do.”

Republicans could have cooperated when they were ordered to draw a new map and potentially saved themselves some ground, but they obviously didn't. They chose to stomp their feet and screech at television cameras. They threatened to impeach members of the state Supreme Court and filed a series of failed legal challenges at the federal and supreme level.

This should be the end of the line unless Justice Samuel Alito accepts their latest appeal after rejecting the first one, but that seems very unlikely.

The Supreme Court announced this morning which cases it intends to hear when it returns to session in October and this is not among them. Furthermore, the deadline for registration as a congressional candidate in Pennsylvania is tomorrow. From that point forward, the new districts and corresponding candidates will be locked in and it would unprecedented for the court to halt an election that is already in motion.

And this is just a personal theory which I have thin evidence for, but I believe Chief Justice John Roberts is getting sick of Republicans running directly to his office in their repeated efforts to bypass lower federal courts.

Update... minutes before this post was scheduled to go live, the Supreme Court declined to issue a stay. The new maps will be in effect for the 2018 election.