The U.S. Supreme Court today drop-kicked the Virginia House of Delegates’ challenge to a decision striking down the state’s reapportionment law. The state’s Governor and Attorney General had declined to appeal.* The Court ruled that a single house of the legislature has no standing to appeal such a decision.
CJLF had filed an amicus brief in the case, Virginia House of Delegates v. Bethune-Hill, No. 18-281, concerned that narrow standing rules impact the ability of victims of crime to seek redress in federal civil cases affecting state criminal judgments. On a quick read, this opinion seems largely limited to legislative cases.
The case is a highly partisan one. Virginia’s executive officers, both Democrats, declined to appeal a decision against a reapportionment drafted by its Legislature, controlled by Republicans. Yet the Supreme Court line-up does not follow party lines. Justice Ginsburg wrote the opinion, joined by Justices Thomas, Sotomayor, Kagan, and Gorsuch. Justice Alito wrote the dissent, joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Breyer and Kavanaugh.
* Reapportionment cases are decided by a special three-judge District Court and then appealed directly to the Supreme Court. It is not the usual discretionary writ of certiorari but an appeal as of right. The Court of Appeals is not involved, except by having one of its judges on the special court. This is remnant of the original 1789 federal judicial system that Congress reserves for only a select few cases. Prisoner release orders are another category.
Hmmm. I wonder why congressmen give such priority to reapportionment cases. A real puzzler, huh?