The post-2020 Census congressional redistricting maps of Louisiana, like in many other southern states with Republican-controlled legislatures, have been challenged in court by leftist organizations and Democrat-aligned groups.
The Supreme Court on Thursday declined a request from those groups to intervene and overturn a circuit court panel's recent decision to cancel a "remedial hearing" in which the maps would have been redrawn, according to The Hill.
However, per a brief concurring opinion by Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson that was attached to the unsigned order, which has not yet been publicly released, it was made clear that the high court will almost certainly have to weigh in on the dispute at some point in the future.
At issue here, according to SCOTUSblog, is the congressional redistricting map that Louisiana's GOP-controlled legislature approved and adopted after overriding a veto from the state's Democratic governor.
The map was challenged by black voters and special interest groups on allegations that it was racially discriminatory and violated federal law since just one of the state's six districts had a black majority despite the state's population being roughly one-third black.
A district court blocked the redistricting map in June 2022 and ordered the legislature to redraw it with an additional black majority district, but that order was placed on hold by the Supreme Court that same month in light of other similar cases, such as one in Alabama, that it would soon rule on, and indeed did a year later in its Allen v. Milligan decision, after which the hold on the Louisiana case was lifted.
With the stay no longer in place, the district court scheduled a remedial hearing for October to redraw Louisiana's map, but the state sought and received intervention from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which issued a rare "writ of mandamus" and summarily canceled the remedial hearing, ostensibly to allow the state legislature an opportunity to redraw the map themselves as they were initially ordered by the district judge to do more than a year earlier.
That cancelation by the Fifth Circuit prompted the challengers to then request the Supreme Court to intervene to restore the remedial hearing, only for that request to be denied.
As noted by The Hill, even though she concurred with the court's decision, Justice Jackson had a few thoughts to share on the matter, and wrote, "I read the Fifth Circuit’s mandamus ruling to require the District Court to delay its remedial hearing only until the Louisiana Legislature has had sufficient time to consider alternative maps that comply with the Voting Rights Act."
"The State has now represented, in its filings before this Court, that the legislature will not consider such maps while litigation over the enacted map is pending," she continued. "Therefore, the District Court will presumably resume the remedial process while the Fifth Circuit considers the State’s appeal of the preliminary injunction."
With regard to what the Fifth Circuit had done, however, Jackson made sure to add as a sort of warning to that and other courts that "nothing in our decision not to summarily reverse the Fifth Circuit should be taken to endorse the practice of issuing an extraordinary writ of mandamus in these or similar circumstances."
The question of whether Louisiana's congressional redistricting map violates Section 2 of the federal Voting Rights Act will eventually be addressed in a trial on the merits once all of the preliminary injunctions and motions have been taken care of.
If Louisiana prevails on the merits or the injunctions -- or manages to further delay matters -- it will be allowed to use the challenged map in the 2024 election, a prospect the challengers find infuriating given their belief that it is illegal and racially discriminatory.
Should Louisiana ultimately lose in this case that seems destined to return to the Supreme Court at some point in the future, however, it will be forced to redraw its map -- or be compelled to accept a map drawn by the court -- that will include two black-majority congressional districts instead of just one.