PA Legislators Ask Supreme Court to Stay Usurpation of Redistricting by PA Supreme Court

On Tuesday, Pennsylvania Speaker of the House Michael Turzai and Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati filed an emergency application with Justice Samuel Alito to stay the imposition of a new congressional map by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court pending resolution of the case by the entire U.S. Supreme Court.  Counsel to the Pennsylvania legislators include RNLA members Jason Torchinsky and Phillip Gordon of Holtzman Vogel Josefiak Torchinsky PLLC and Mark Braden of Baker & Hostetler LLP.  

They described the intentional usurpations of the political process by the Democrat-controlled Pennsylvania Supreme Court (internal citations and notes omitted):

This case arises from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s usurpation of the Pennsylvania General Assembly’s legislative authority to draw its congressional district lines through its preordained invalidation of the lawful districts the General Assembly enacted in 2011 (the “2011 Plan”). At all stages, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court set this case on a path whereby only it would draw Pennsylvania’s new congressional districts—a task delegated to the “Legislature”—in violation of the Elections Clause. But as Justice Kennedy stated in League of United Latin Am. Citizens v. Perry, “drawing lines for congressional districts is one of the most significant acts a State can perform to ensure citizen participation in republican self-governance. * * * As the Constitution vests redistricting responsibilities foremost in the legislatures of the States and in Congress, a lawful, legislatively enacted plan should be preferable to one drawn by the courts.” . . . The Pennsylvania Supreme Court conspicuously seized the redistricting process and prevented any meaningful ability for the legislature to enact a remedial map to ensure a court drawn map.  

First, on January 22, 2018, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued an order enjoining the 2011 Plan because it failed to comply with purported mandatory requirements found nowhere in the Pennsylvania Constitution . . . . Second, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court provided an inadequate remedial opportunity to the General Assembly, thus ensuring a court drawn map. It did not issue an opinion with its initial order and did not provide its sufficient guidance on how a new map could be drawn in compliance with the Pennsylvania Constitution. It nevertheless gave the General Assembly a mere 18 days, until February 9, to enact new legislation before the Court would impose a plan of its own, and even reserved the right to review the enacted map. Indeed, that was the court’s intention all along. It proceeded to hire a political scientist to prepare for a judicial, rather than a legislative, redistricting. . . . 

. . . [T]he Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s intentional seizure of the redistricting process is now complete. On February 7—just two days before the deadline that the Court imposed to enact a new plan—the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued an opinion . . . . The General Assembly’s leadership rushed to prepare a plan to comply with the court’s opinion, but, given the two-day timeframe, it was unable to put a plan to a vote or negotiate a mutually agreeable plan with the Governor. It submitted that plan to the court and the Governor for review on February 9. On February 19, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court adopted its own plan. The parties to the litigation had never before seen the court’s plan and had no opportunity to vet for compliance with the court’s own criteria. 

By promulgating mandatory criteria the General Assembly could not anticipate in 2011, and that are found nowhere in the Pennsylvania Constitution, withholding guidance as to how to achieve compliance with Pennsylvania law until two days before the court’s imposed deadline to enact a new plan, creating a proportional-representation criterion that is practically impossible to implement, and imposing a remedial plan that had been in the works all along, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ensured that its desired plan to draft the new map would be successful.  

Organizations such as the American Civil Rights Union filed non-partisan maps with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, but of course the court was not interested in a map that was not drawn by its hand-picked expert.

Justice Alito requested a response to the application by 3:00 PM Eastern on Monday.  We can expect a decision soon, as he denied the application to stay following the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's initial order 10 days after the application was filed.