Standing before the nine justices in a packed courtroom, Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller was barely minutes into arguing that there was no evidence mapmakers acted with a discriminatory objective when the court's liberal justices interrupted and asked why the court should consider the case when the state hadn't been prevented from using its current maps for the upcoming elections.
After three election cycles that used the interim maps it had drawn, the district court ruled that they were flawed. "I urge the Supreme Court to affirm the lower court in San Antonio and direct the Texas legislature to draw a map that affirms the principle known as 'one person, one vote'".
The minority groups also accuse the state of appealing to the Supreme Court prematurely before the lower courts could fashion a remedy, possibly by drawing new lines for the 2018 midterm elections.
The court gave Texas three days to say whether it would do a new round of redistricting, but the state instead chose to seek an emergency appeal to the Supreme Court. In their appeal to the Supreme Court, lawyers representing Texas have argued their most recently-crafted maps must be upheld as constitutional insofar as they are similar to the interim maps ordered into effect by the lower courts in 2012.
The map in question originated when Texas courts rejected a previous map created to benefit the Republican-controlled legislature, establishing a temporary map for the 2012 election that was later enacted permanently. The district court then drew another remedial redistricting plan which the state legislature adopted in 2013.
Solicitor General Keller argued this morning that it would be absurd to hold that a court could find its own map tainted by racially discriminatory intent. Rick Perry from calling an emergency legislative session to adopt the interim map. Lloyd DoggettLloyd Alton DoggettGOP pushes for "phase two" of tax cuts House panel begins evaluation of expired tax breaks Supreme Court agrees to hear Texas redistricting case MORE (D), and the 27th District, which was formerly represented by Rep. "Solicitor General Keller and the DOJ presented powerful oral arguments in defense of Texas' redistricting maps, and I anticipate a favorable decision".
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"The work of the district courts has yet to be completed", said MALC attorney Jose Garza.
"Texas Republicans are fighting to maintain the status quo of systematically rigging the game against people of color, end of story". The 11 districts in question in the case include two congressional districts and nine state House districts.
Tuesday's oral arguments were the culmination of nearly a decade of fighting over districts drawn by the Texas Legislature after the 2010 census. Some legal analysts say that if Texas prevails in its appeal from the lower court proceedings, it could either slow or short-circuit them altogether, protecting the current maps through the 2020 elections.
Hopes for reform has risen this year as the high court has agreed to take up cases from Maryland, Wisconsin and other states that have come under challenge for partisan - if not racial - gerrymandering.
In that case, any new maps imposed at the lower court level could be appealed anew to the high court. If the Court does it is noteworthy that Justice Kennedy didn't ask questions of any of the attorneys arguing about the merits of the case. He invoked a quip once quoted by the late Justice Antonio Scalia, that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.
If the Supreme Court sides with Texas, that gambit may prove to have been successful.