The Republican-drawn North Carolina congressional district was rejected by the United States Supreme Court this week, rejecting the notion of an “independent legislature theory.”
According to the GOP attorneys’ position, federal and state courts have no business examining state choices about redistricting since Article I, Section 4 of the Constitution grants state legislatures the authority to choose the “times, places, and manner” regarding federal elections.
According to Chief Justice John Roberts’ majority ruling, “The Elections Clause doesn’t exempt state legislatures from the routine application of state judicial review.”
The North Carolina Supreme Court invalidated the legislature’s Republican-favored congressional districting plan, which sparked the issue. The state’s high court then overturned the rationale of the initial judgment, but not its outcome, when the state’s leading legislative Republicans appealed to the Supreme Court.
The ruling grants federal courts the authority to review state supreme court rulings involving the conformity of congressional maps with state election rules. This implies that federal courts, rather than merely federal laws, may have the last say on whether a map breaches state law.
Roberts’ 6-3 majority was supported by Justices Brett Kavanaugh, Amy Coney Barrett, and each of the three Democratic appointees. The majority claimed that the Supreme Court had jurisdiction regarding the matter because state constitutions control the legislature’s ability to redraw districts, and that under both federal and state law, both federal and state courts may examine the validity of state legislatures’ maps.
Roberts claimed that the Court had the right to consider the case because, in order for the GOP petitioners to be released, the state supreme court’s first ruling on the issue, which had been only partially struck down after Republicans won control of the Tar Heel State’s high court, must be reversed by the Supreme Court of the United States.
Before Marbury v. Madison established the practice in the SCOTUS, the Chief Justice also addressed the use of judicial review. He claimed that the idea of “judicial review had been pushed by state court rulings, Convention discussions, and essays defending the Constitution.” Chief Justice Marshall alluded to judicial review as “one of the basic values of our society” since it has been “long and well established” according to Marbury in 1803.
“When legislators exercise the authority granted to them by the Elections Clause, state courts are nevertheless able to enforce state constitutional limitations. But federal courts must continue to fulfill their responsibility to conduct judicial review,” Roberts said.
In a concurring opinion, Justice Brett Kavanaugh underlined that federal courts’ authority to examine state redistricting cases should be constrained and noted that the Supreme Court has not adopted a criterion. Additionally, he said that giving federal courts this authority does not insult state courts but rather serves to safeguard state legislators.
Justice Clarence Thomas expressed disapproval of the decision, contending that the issue should not have ever been taken up by the Court and that giving federal judges jurisdiction over disputes involving state election laws would “swell federal court dockets.”