The fight over Michigan’s redistricting, litigated in part by a team from the Indianapolis office of Faegre Baker Daniels, ended Monday with an order from the U.S. Supreme Court vacating a lower court’s ruling that gerrymandering based on political affiliation violates the Constitution.
Represented pro bono by the team from Faegre, the League of Women Voters of Michigan challenged the congressional and legislative maps drawn by the Republican-controlled Michigan Legislature. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, citing evidence that showed Democratic votes were deliberately diluted, concluded the redistricting maps violated the plaintiffs’ equal protection rights as well as their free speech and association rights.
The case arrived at the Supreme Court just as the justices were considering another partisan gerrymandering case, Rucho v. Common Cause, 588 U.S. ___(2019). There, the 5-4 majority ruled political redistricting disputes were “beyond the reach of the federal courts.”
Attorneys representing the intervening defendants, including Lee Chatfield, the speaker of the Michigan House of Representatives, filed a jurisdictional statement in August, asking the Supreme Court to vacate the lower court’s ruling in light of Rucho and the Supreme Court’s previous ruling in Benisek v. Lamone, 138 S. Ct. 1942 (2018)). They argued the district court’s Michigan ruling could not stand after the Supreme Court found in Rucho and Lamone that partisan gerrymandering claims are not justiciable.
Faegre attorneys followed with a letter in September, acknowledging the issue has already been settled by the Supreme Court.
“While Appellees respectfully disagree with this Court’s holding in Rucho v. Common Cause, 139 S. Ct. 2484 (2019), Appellees concur with Appellants that it is controlling precedent that establishes a lack of Article III jurisdiction as to claims decided in the final judgment below,” the Faegre team wrote. “Accordingly, Appellees do not object to the relief Appellants now seek, specifically to vacate summarily the District Court’s judgment and to remand with instructions to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction.”