The Supreme Court is hearing an election law case that could determine whether state courts can act to control gerrymandering calculated to alter election outcomes, and attorney and frequent MSNBC contributor Neal Katyal is setting the example for how to argue before the Justices, as he quotes their own words to bolster his argument.
The case, Moore v. Harper, comes from North Carolina, where the state courts ruled that the Republican-dominated legislature had gerrymandered new redistricting maps in a way that violated the state Constitution.
Now SCOTUS is deciding how much power state courts have to interpret and enforce these rules.
The conservative Justices seemed to empathize with the freedom of North Carolina Republicans to gerrymander, with Justice Thomas suggesting that Katyal, arguing the case for his client Common Cause, and whose social media bios describe him as an “extremist centrist,” would not make the same argument if the state legislature had been “very generous to minority voters” and the courts had ruled this to be a violation of the state Constitution.
Katyal had handed back the court’s own ruling from 22 years ago in the Bush v. Palm Beach County Canvassing Board case, stemming from an election count dispute, in which the court’s opinion addressed the right of the state Supreme Court to interpret state Constitution matters in regards to elections.
“And Justice Thomas, it’s the same point picking up on Justice Kavanaugh’s questioning. Palm Beach, the court said that sovereignty was at its apex when talking about state constitutions and interpretations by state courts,” Katyal said. “This Court never second-guessed state interpretations of their own constitutions.”
Katyal affirmed that the position would be the same in Justice Thomas’ hypothetical case of a state legislature being deemed too “generous” to minorities, and reiterated, “Our point to you, Justice Thomas, is that this court has never second-guessed State Court interpretations of their own Constitution, and so if there’s a general clause and it happens to benefit or hurt minority voters as Judge Sutton says that’s a process the states deal with.”
You can watch this exchange below. If the video fails to start at the correct point, the exchange begins at the 1:45:50 mark.
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Steph Bazzle covers politics and theocracy, always aiming for a world free from extremism and authoritarianism. Follow Steph on Twitter @imjustasteph.