Court may have punted, but have pinned plaintiffs deep inside their own territory
June 18, 2018 – Milwaukee, WI – Today, the United States Supreme Court issued a much-anticipated decision in Gill v. Whitford , a challenge to Wisconsin’s legislative maps. In reaction, Rick Esenberg, president and general counsel at the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty – which filed amicus briefs in the case – made the following statement:
“Today, the United States Supreme Court vacated the lower court directing the Wisconsin legislature to redraw Assembly district maps . The Court did not dismiss the case; it remanded to give the plaintiffs an opportunity to show that they have suffered an individualized harm, i.e., that their districts were drawn in a way that diluted their vote.
“In that sense, it is fair to say – and many have been saying – that the Court punted. But that punt may well have pinned the plaintiffs deep inside their own territory. Here’s the problem: the Court made clear that an individual’s claim of vote dilution cannot be based on the fact that maps have been drawn in a way that diminishes the statewide prospects for that voter’s preferred political party. The majority held that the plaintiffs interest “in their collective representation in the legislature,” and in influencing the legislature’s overall “composition and policymaking” does not constitute “an individual and personal injury of the kind required for Article III standing.
“If that’s true, then plaintiffs are going to have to show some constitutional violation in the drawing of their individual district and that harm cannot be inferred from a statewide impact. While Justice Kagan’s decision suggests that demonstrating that another set of statewide maps would have resulted in more “balanced” districts might do the trick, conferring standing on plaintiffs whose districts “could be” made more competitive, Chief Justice Roberts decision suggests otherwise. The Court punted, but it may have hit the coffin corner.”