News: Quick Takes

Court explains why congressional redistricting case will go to trial

UPDATE: The court on Monday announced an Oct. 16 trial date.

Lawsuits challenging North Carolina’s current congressional district map pose different questions than a suit in the U.S. Supreme Court challenging Wisconsin legislative maps.

A three-judge federal panel reviewing lawsuits over partisan gerrymandering claims involving North Carolina’s congressional map gave that as one of several reasons it will allow the suits to head to trial. Common Cause and the League of Women Voters filed separate partisan gerrymandering suits against the General Assembly. Those two suits have been consolidated before the three-judge panel.

The panel denied legislative lawyers’ request in late August to delay a trial. Judges followed up Friday by issuing an opinion explaining that decision.

The lawsuitsĀ contested alleged partisan gerrymandering used in a congressional district map the General Assembly drew for the 2016 election cycle. Legislative lawyers said a trial in U.S. District Court could waste the court’s time and resources since the U.S. Supreme Court has set an October date to hear arguments in a Wisconsin lawsuit involving similar partisan gerrymandering claims.

Not good enough, the judges said.

The panel’s opinion noted differences between legislative and congressional districts. It also said the Wisconsin case challenged district maps drawn after the 2010 census, while the North Carolina dispute involved a map responding to a court order throwing out an earlier map drawn after the regular census.

The court also said the Wisconsin and North Carolina cases addressed different legal questions, so it’s possible the federal justices will reach conclusions that do not resolve issues raised in the North Carolina lawsuit.

U.S. Appeals Court Judge James Wynn and District Court Judge Earl Britt endorsed Wynn’s 18-page opinion. Judge William Osteen agreed with his colleagues in the result but did not sign onto Wynn’s reasoning.

The court did not set a date for the parties to file additional briefs, let alone a trial.