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Vieth v. Jubelirer

This case arose from a partisan gerrymander of Pennsylvania’s 19 Congressional districts following the 2000 census.

Published: April 28, 2004

Vieth v. Jubelirer arose from the redistricting of Pennsylvania’s 19 Congressional districts following the 2000 census. One party controlled both houses of the state legislature and the governorship and used its power virtually to guarantee itself a majority of the Congressional seats for the rest of the decade-even if it did not win a majority of the votes.

Joined by the ACLU, the Brennan Center filed an amicus brief in the United States Supreme Court making three main points: first, partisan gerrymandering by both major parties is rampant; second, the Constitution embodies a vision of representative democracy in which the voters choose their representatives, not the other way around; and, third, that a gerrymander that makes it irrelevant which party gets a majority of votes violates that constitutional vision.

In April 2004, the Court issued a fractured opinion, in which 5 justices affirmed the lower court’s dismissal of the case. Four justices agreed that the political gerrymandering claims in the case were nonjusticiable because no judicially discernible and manageable standards for adjudicating them exist. In the controlling opinion, however, Justice Kennedy agreed only that no manageable standard had yet presented itself, and that the Pennsylvania plan was not so arbitrary as to otherwise violate the Constitution. He held open the prospect that judicial relief may be available in future redistricting cases, if the courts were presented with clear, manageable, and politically neutral standards for assessing the particular burden a given partisan classification imposes on representational rights.

Read the amicus brief