New Louisiana Congressional Map Case : U.S. Supreme Court Denies Stay, Adds Complexity

New Louisiana Congressional Map
The U.S. Supreme Court is seen in Washington, D.C., Aug. 7, 2023. (Francis Chung/POLITICO via AP Images)

In a perplexing turn of events, the U.S. Supreme Court has chosen not to intervene in the legal battle over Louisiana’s new congressional map, adding another layer of uncertainty to the already complex Voting Rights Act case.

New Louisiana Congressional Map : Emergency Stay Denied

On Thursday, the highest court in the land made a surprising decision to decline two emergency stay applications regarding a Fifth Circuit panel’s order to cancel a federal court hearing in Louisiana. The hearing was meant to address the alleged dilution of Black voters’ influence in the state’s new congressional map, but the panel’s intervention has thrown a wrench into the proceedings.

 Controversial Panel Order

The emergency stay applications were submitted by the Louisiana State Conference of the NAACP and 13 individual voters who strongly objected to the Fifth Circuit panel’s order. They argued that it constituted a “gross abuse” of the writ of mandamus process, essentially micromanaging a trial court’s docket. Justice Samuel Alito referred these applications to the full court, ultimately resulting in the denial of the stay.

New Louisiana Congressional Map : A Solo Opinion

Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson added her voice to the decision by writing a two-page solo concurring opinion. She explicitly expressed her disapproval of the Fifth Circuit panel’s use of the writ of mandamus process in this case. However, Justice Jackson pointed out that the Louisiana Legislature had publicly stated that they wouldn’t attempt to redraw the map while the litigation was ongoing. This declaration led her to believe that the Supreme Court’s decision not to stay the circuit court’s order wouldn’t unduly delay the district court proceedings.

A Controversial 18-Page Opinion

The Fifth Circuit panel’s 18-page opinion, issued on September 28, was a game-changer. It declared that a Middle District of Louisiana judge had been mistaken in denying Louisiana’s request for a trial in the case and instead proceeding with a hearing to determine how to remedy the state’s map, which had previously been deemed likely to violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

New Louisiana Congressional Map: The Timeline Unraveled

The case’s perplexity arises from a complex timeline. In June 2022, Judge Shelly Deckert Dick granted Black voters’ request for a preliminary injunction, preventing Louisiana from conducting congressional elections using the contested map. The judge gave lawmakers an opportunity to create a new map, but Louisiana chose to appeal the injunction.