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Court Cartography

Don't expect a redistricting ruling out of San Antonio quickly. Some of the lawyers — and this requires more lawyers than a Hollywood divorce — say the Texas judges might hold their ruling until the DC courts are finished. That could be November, or even December.

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There's a great blog for redistricting mooks, run by Dallas attorney Michael Li. He doesn't have a client in this, but he's interested in it to an almost absurd level and is the only one we know of who's keeping track of documents and personalities and arguments on a close basis. We check his blog, at TxRedistricting.org, for regular fixes on the trial in San Antonio.

Before the big redistricting trial began this week, Li said he's watching to see whether Republicans can hang onto their base without stampeding Hispanic voters to the other side. And while there's not a lot of precedent-setting material in the case, he and others in the political mapping bidness are watching to see whether anyone successfully challenges the Voting Rights Act — specifically, Section 5, which requires Texas and other mostly southern states to get federal preclearance for any changes in maps or voting procedures.

The Texas cases are moving on two tracks. Instead of asking the U.S. Department of Justice (part of a Democratic administration) for pre-clearance, Attorney General Greg Abbott sent that request to the federal courts in the District of Columbia. They haven't set trial dates yet, but they're meeting with lawyers and assembling legal briefs this month. They could set those dates in a conference on September 21, but that's a guess based on conversations with some of the lawyers involved in this.

The San Antonio track started this week with hearings (see our coverage of the opening arguments here) that are scheduled to end on Mexican Independence Day, September 16. Judges are funny, huh? The three-judge panel hearing that case includes Orlando Garcia, a former state legislator who's now a federal judge, Xavier Rodriguez, a former Texas Supreme Court justice who lost that job in a Republican primary — a loss that some attributed to his Spanish surname, and Jerry Smith, a Houston-based justice on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Garcia was appointed by Bill Clinton, Rodriguez by George W. Bush, and Smith by Ronald Reagan.

Don't expect a ruling out of San Antonio quickly. Some of the lawyers — and this requires more lawyers than a Hollywood divorce — say the Texas judges might hold their ruling until the DC courts are finished. That could be November, or even December.

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