The U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling on Tuesday against the GOP by smacking down a Republican-drawn congressional map in the state of North Carolina, issuing a big rebuke for what’s known as “independent legislature theory.” The theory, for those who may not have heard the term before, was proposed by Republican attorneys who believe that due to Article I, Section 4 of the Constitution provides the state legislature with the power to determine “times, places and manner” of federal elections, neither states or federal courts have any right to review state decisions concerning the issue of redistricting.
“The Elections Clause does not insulate state legislatures from the ordinary exercise of state judicial review,” Chief Justice John Roberts stated in the majority opinion, according to the Daily Wire.
“The controversy was spurred when the North Carolina Supreme Court struck down the legislature’s congressional map, which favored Republican candidates. However, after the state’s top legislative Republicans appealed to SCOTUS, the party gained control of the state’s high court, which subsequently overruled the reasoning — but not the result — of the original decision,” the report continued.
The new ruling from the highest court of the land puts power in the hands of federal courts to take a look at state supreme court decisions concerning congressional maps and their compliance with state election laws. Basically, federal courts could then overrule state courts when it comes to determining whether or not a map is in violation of state law, not just federal law.
“Roberts was joined by Justices Brett Kavanaugh, Amy Coney Barrett, and the three Democrat-appointed justices to form the 6-3 majority. The majority argued that the Supreme Court had jurisdiction over the case, state constitutions govern the legislature’s redistricting power, and state and federal courts can review the legality of state legislatures’ maps under state and federal laws,” the Daily Wire said. “Roberts argued that the Court had authority to hear the case because the only path for the GOP petitioners to be relieved is if SCOTUS overturned the state supreme court’s first decision on the matter, which was only partially overturned after Republicans took over the Tar Heel State’s high court.”
“State courts retain the authority to apply state constitutional restraints when legislatures act under the power conferred upon them by the Elections Clause. But federal courts must not abandon their own duty to exercise judicial review,” Roberts stated in conclusion.
Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh put out a concurrence where he placed emphasis on the fact federal courts should have limitations placed around their jurisdiction to look into state redistricting cases, noting that the Court does not adopt a standard. He also said that giving federal courts permission to have this kind of jurisdiction is not to disrespect state courts but to protect state legislatures.
Justice Clarence Thomas saw things very differently than many of his colleagues, stating that the Court should not have heard the case, pointing out that granting federal judges legal authority over controversies concerning state election law would “swell federal court dockets.”
He also noted that “politically charged controversies” will pop up “haphazardly” before federal courts, with those who win federal elections potentially being decided by a a snappy judgment of a federal court.
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