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Lamone v. Benisek

On May 20, the Brennan Center filed a brief supporting the plaintiffs’ opposition to the motion to dismiss. The case was formerly known as Shapiro v. McManus.

Published: July 29, 2019

View our extens­ive cover­age of
Gerry­man­der­ing at the Supreme Court.

Case Back­ground

Plaintiffs filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Mary­land on Novem­ber 5, 2013 chal­len­ging the congres­sional redis­trict­ing plan enacted by the Mary­land General Assembly follow­ing the 2010 Census. In the complaint, plaintiffs claimed the district plan was a partisan gerry­mander which viol­ated the right to repres­ent­a­tion guar­an­teed by Article 1 Section 2 of the U.S. Consti­tu­tion, and the First Amend­ment’s protec­tion of polit­ical asso­ci­ation.

A district judge dismissed the case in April 2014 for fail­ure to state a claim, but did so without conven­ing a three-judge panel. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit summar­ily affirmed the lower court’s decision not to convene a three-judge panel, and the plaintiffs appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

On Decem­ber 8, 2015, the Supreme Court unan­im­ously rejec­ted the decisions of the lower courts, hold­ing that they had been too dismissive of the plaintiffs’ partisan gerry­man­der­ing claims. Writ­ing for the Court, Justice Antonin Scalia stated that the law “could not be clearer” in requir­ing that a three-judge panel be convened in cases chal­len­ging a statewide district plan. The only excep­tions to the rule are the rare cases where a claim is “essen­tially ficti­tious” or “obvi­ously frivol­ous.” The Court said the partisan gerry­man­der­ing claims in the Mary­land case, which were based in part on First Amend­ment theor­ies of liab­il­ity, “easily cleared [that] low bar.”

Plaintiffs’ claims center on the uncon­sti­tu­tion­al­ity of Maryland’s 6th Congres­sional District, in which voters elec­ted a Repub­lican in the 2010 elec­tion but which has consist­ently been repres­en­ted by a Demo­crat since it was redrawn in 2011. 

On August 24, 2016, the three-judge panel issued a 2–1 opin­ion deny­ing the state defend­ants’ motion to dismiss the case, and the parties proceeded with pretrial discov­ery. 

On May 31, 2017 the plaintiffs filed a motion for prelim­in­ary injunc­tion or, in the altern­at­ive, summary judg­ment. The state filed a cross-motion for summary judg­ment and opposed the plaintiffs’ motion for prelim­in­ary injunc­tion on June 30. 

On August 24, the district court denied the plaintiffs’ request for an injunc­tion block­ing use of the maps. The court also entered an order stay­ing any further proceed­ings in the case pending a decision by the Supreme Court in Gill v. Whit­ford. The plaintiffs filed an appeal on August 25 asking the Supreme Court to review the decision not to enjoin the map.  

The Supreme Court heard oral argu­ment in the case on March 28, 2018. 

On June 18, 2018, the Court affirmed the district court’s decision not to enjoin the map, hold­ing that the district court’s denial was not abuse of discre­tion. 

On remand, the district court heard oral argu­ment on the plaintiffs’ motion for summary judg­ment on Octo­ber 4, 2018.

On Novem­ber 7, 2018, the court gran­ted the plaintiffs’ request to perman­ently block further use of the 2011 plan and ordered new maps be drawn for the 2020 elec­tions. The court ruled that it will appoint a three-person commis­sion headed by a magis­trate judge to redraw the congres­sional map if the state does not submit a valid plan by March 7, 2019.

On Novem­ber 15, 2018, the defend­ants appealed the panel’s decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, and on Novem­ber 16, secured a stay of the panel’s order pending appeal. On Janu­ary 4, 2019, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the defend­ants’ appeal. The Court heard oral argu­ment on March 26.

On June 27, 2019, the Court vacated the decision below and remanded the case for dismissal, hold­ing that partisan gerry­man­der­ing claims are nonjus­ti­ciable. On August 9, 2019, the court dismissed the case for lack of juris­dic­tion.

Docu­ments

District Court (Initial Proceed­ings)

U.S. Supreme Court (2015 Appeal)

Before Grant­ing Certi­or­ari

After Grant­ing Certi­or­ari

District Court (on remand)

U.S. Supreme Court (2017 Appeal)

Juris­dic­tional Stage

Merits Stage

Amicus Briefs in Support of Appel­lants

Amicus Briefs in Support of Neither Party

Amicus Briefs in Support of the Appellees 

District Court (on remand)  

U.S. Supreme Court (2018 Appeal)

Juris­dic­tional Stage

Merits Stage

Amicus Briefs in Support of the Appel­lants

Amicus Briefs in Support of Neither Party

Amicus Briefs in Support of the Appellees