SCOTUS paves the way for escrows in the GOP gerrymandering case

A view of the US Supreme Court through security fences on May 31, 2022 in Washington, DC (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images.)

A view of the US Supreme Court through security fences on May 31, 2022 in Washington, DC

Three Republican state legislators are scheduled to be summoned in a new district lawsuit after the US Supreme Court on Tuesday denied their emergency motion to stay a series of testimonies ordered by a district court in west Texas earlier this year.

The underlying legal challenge is actually a series of lawsuits filed by dozens of voters, constituencies and other organizations operating largely under the banner of the Texas Latino Redistricting Task Force, as well as a lawsuit brought by the US Department of Justice. Overall, the various litigants and their cases were grouped together in district court cases in the Western District of Texas.

The lawsuits allege that Texas’ 2021 congressional and state redistribution plans violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and the 14th and 15th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution because they intentionally discriminate against and dilute minority voting power to improve electoral success to support GOP .

Specifically, the lawsuits argue that Texas was required to create more majority-minority districts than it did during the 2021 redistribution process, and that the resulting number of such districts is woefully disproportionate to the number of such Black, Hispanic and Asian voters who in Texas live Lone Star State by and large.

The League of United Latin American Citizens’ first lawsuit alleges that the plans “discriminate against Latino voters statewide and in specific districts by intentionally manipulating district boundaries to reduce Latino voting strength.” This is done, the plaintiffs allege, by “overpopulating Latino-majority counties and underpopulating Anglo-majority counties to avoid drawing new Latino-majority counties.”

The DOJ’s filing contained similar claims:

Between 2010 and 2020, Texas grew nearly 4 million residents, and the minority population accounts for 95% of that growth.

Shortly after the release of the 2020 census data, the Texas Legislature, in an extraordinarily rapid and opaque legislative process, enacted plans to redistribute the Texas congressional delegation and the Texas House of Representatives.

The legislature refused to recognize the state’s growing minority constituency. Although the Texas congressional delegation was expanded from 36 to 38 seats, Texas designed the two new seats to have Anglo majorities. Texas also deliberately eliminated a voting opportunity for Latinos in Congressional District 23, a district in west Texas where courts had found violations of the voting rights law during the last two new district cycles. He failed to draw a seat that included Harris County’s growing Latino electorate. And it surgically removed minority communities from the core of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex (DFW), affiliating them with heavily Anglo-rural counties, some more than a hundred miles away, and placing them in a congressional district where they had none had the same choices.

“By cracking down on minority communities and submerging urban minority voters among rural Anglos, the Congressional map effectively reverses a decade of rapid Latino population growth and preserves Anglos control of most remaining counties,” the DOJ filing reads.

In summary, while whites make up less than 40 percent of the population in Texas, they now directly control over 60 percent of the state’s federal congressional districts, the lawsuits allege. Plaintiffs allege that white voters in such districts, and likely many others, have no problem voting for the candidate of their choosing. Conversely, they claim that non-white voter communities have been both torn apart and stacked on top of one another to thwart their own “cohesive” voting trends and overall weaken non-white voter strength across the state.

The Texas Tribune explained the outcome of the new redistribution plans: “People of color accounted for 95% of the state’s growth over the past decade, but the new map has one fewer Hispanic-majority counties and zero black-majority counties.”

In its own lawsuit, the NAACP claimed that although a black and a Hispanic representative were included on the committee along with eight white lawmakers to resolve differences between the various plans that eventually became law, “the only black members at the conference The committee was not privy to the committee discussions and had not even seen what would be in the final report of the conference committee.”

There are currently ten separate lawsuits that have been integrated into the overall legal case against various Texas defendants.

The sheer size of the litigation has required numerous depositions to conduct investigations and obtain evidence. Three Republicans challenged the plaintiffs’ requests to investigate their motives and ask questions about them under oath.

They lost in the district court overseeing the litigation, which ordered the testimony to continue. Lawmakers then appealed to the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. A three-judge appellate panel denied the stay of that deposit order on both merit and judicial grounds.

On May 21, 2022 in her emergency application to the judiciary Samuel AlitoTexas State Representative Ryan Guillen, Brooks Landgraveand John Lujan argued that they were “involuntarily subpoenaed as third parties in the consolidated circuit court proceedings.”

Her plea argues at length:

Lawmakers are now court-ordered to answer any question put to them, regardless of objections to statutory privileges — even ones that would be off-limits in almost every court across the country. The legislators’ affidavits will probe the inner workings of the legislative process and examine legislators’ thoughts, impressions and motivations for their legislative acts. The lawyer can object, but for what purpose? Little. The attorney cannot instruct the legislature not to respond. Rather, the legislature must “answer the question completely”. Then the proverbial “cat is out of the bag”. And the dual guarantees of legislative immunity and privileges – older than the country itself – are no guarantees at all.

“[T]The probative value of an individual legislator’s motivations or impressions is weak at best, while the affront to federalism and conviviality is at its peak,” argues the urgent request later.

On Tuesday, the country’s Supreme Court silently dismissed the request. No dissenting opinions or agreement to rejection were recorded.

Law&Crime reached out to attorneys for both constituency plaintiffs, who won, and state representative defendants, who lost. At the time of publication there were no replies.

[Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images.]

Do you have a tip we should know? [email protected] SCOTUS paves the way for escrows in the GOP gerrymandering case

James Brien

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