Watchdogs Urge Supreme Court to Overturn Lower Court & Send Maryland Gerrymander Case to 3-Judge Panel

Today, in Shapiro v. McManus, the Campaign Legal Center joined with Common Cause in filing an amici brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a U.S. District Court decision which dismissed a challenge by voters to the blatant political gerrymander carried out by then-Governor Martin O’Malley and the Maryland state legislature in 2011.  The petitioners argue that their First Amendment rights were violated and they were discriminated against because of their political party affiliations when the state drastically redrew the sixth congressional district to unseat the incumbent Republican Member of Congress and ensure the election of a Democrat.   
“This is a textbook political gerrymander with politicians picking voters instead of voters picking politicians, and we were pleased to support these residents who have a valid claim that their First Amendment rights have been violated,” said J. Gerald Hebert, Executive Director of the Campaign Legal Center.  “As the brief points out, if the legislature had gerrymandered the sixth district by removing Catholic voters in order to elect a Protestant, the Court would not hesitate to hold such conduct a violation of the First Amendment.”   Hebert added: “The Supreme Court has thus far failed to articulate a standard for when excessive, blatant partisan gerrymandering violates the Constitution. This case gives the conservatives on the high Court an opportunity to back up their First Amendment jurisprudence with language that articulates why political gerrymandering cases like this infringes First Amendment rights.”
The petitioners requested a three-judge panel to adjudicate their claims but that request was denied and the case was dismissed by the U.S. District Judge James Bedar who ruled the challenge without merit. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals summarily affirmed the district court’s ruling.
The Campaign Legal Center gratefully acknowledges the excellent work of attorneys at the law firm Bondurant Mixson & Elmore LLP in Atlanta, Georgia, on this amicus brief.
To read the brief, click here.