What to Expect When the Supreme Court Takes Up Virginia's Redistricting Case

Mar 15, 2019

Credit AP Photo / J. David Ake

Virginia’s racial gerrymandering case is headed back to the United States Supreme Court next week for yet another round of oral arguments.

Justices will hear about racial gerrymandering in Virginia for a second time this month. The oral arguments come after a dizzying series of court challenges that stretch back years. The most recent development is a series of new maps for two dozen House districts – several that transformed safe Republican seats to Democratic territory.

Legal expert Rich Kelsey says this case will not be like most oral arguments at the high court.

“The justices find themselves in a circumstance they’re not normally in, which is that they are the first court of appeal from this panel. Normally they get a case that comes from a circuit court of appeals," Kelsey says. "So they are looking at the application of the evidence.”

Carl Tobias at the University of Richmond Law School says that means justices will be wrestling with whether the three-judge panel properly applied the law to the facts.

“Some of that delves into the evidence and who you believed and credibility and those kinds of questions, which the Supreme Court is going to have trouble second guessing the three-judge panel because they haven’t heard any of that evidence," adds Tobias.

If the justices decide that House Republicans have standing to sue, and they agree that the old maps were not unconstitutional that could throw the June primaries into chaos.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.