Federal appeals court allows ruling overturning Louisiana’s congressional boundaries to remain

On June 12, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit vacated an administrative stay it had issued on June 9 of a federal district court’s ruling that struck down Louisiana’s congressional district boundaries. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals also denied motions to stay the district court’s decision pending appeal. As a result, the congressional districts that the legislature adopted in March are overturned.

In its ruling, the court wrote, “Although we must acknowledge that this appeal’s exigency has left us little time to review the record, we conclude that, though the plaintiffs’ arguments and the district court’s analysis are not without weaknesses, the defendants have not met their burden of making a ‘strong showing’ of likely success on the merits.”

The Fifth Circuit’s ruling directed “the Clerk to issue an expedited briefing schedule and to calendar this matter for argument before the next available randomly selected merits panel that is already scheduled to hear arguments during the week of July 4, 2022…it is feasible that the merits panel, conducting a less-rushed examination of the record in the light of differently framed arguments, may well side with the defendants.”

The United States District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana had struck down the state’s congressional district map on June 6 and blocked the state from using the districts for the 2022 elections. The district court’s order blocking the map said, “The appropriate remedy in this context is a remedial congressional redistricting plan that includes an additional majority-Black congressional district. The United States Supreme Court instructs that the Legislature should have the first opportunity to draw that plan. Therefore, the Court ORDERS the Louisiana Legislature to enact a remedial plan on or before June 20, 2022. If the Legislature is unable to pass a remedial plan by that date, the Court will issue additional orders to enact a remedial plan.”

Louisiana enacted a new congressional map on March 30 when the state legislature overrode Gov. John Bel Edwards’ (D) veto of legislation establishing the new districts. The state Senate voted to override 27-11 with all ‘yes’ votes from Republicans and all ‘no’ votes from Democrats. The state House of Representatives overrode Edwards’ veto 72-32 with 68 Republicans, three independents, and one Democrat voting in favor and all votes against by Democrats. Gov. Edwards had vetoed the congressional district map on March 9.

On June 7, Gov. Edwards called a special legislative session on redistricting that began June 15 and was scheduled to end on June 20. Louisiana’s filing deadline for congressional candidates is July 22.

Additional reading: