New Justice Gorsuch to Review Wisconsin Gerrymandering Case

In January of 2017, President Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch to the United States Supreme Court.   Justice Gorsuch had been, at that time, a ten year veteran of the federal 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.  He was confirmed by the U.S. Senate to the Supreme Court on April 7, 2017, after Republicans made a rule change to allow the Democrat filibuster to be broken by a simple majority vote.

Justice Gorsuch, at age 49, is the youngest Justice to be seated on the Supreme Court.  He is viewed as a textualist, meaning that he would interpret the law and the constitution based upon the plain meaning of the legal text, not strictly or leniently, but reasonably and in a manner that ascertains the fair meaning.

One of Justice Gorsuch’s first tests will be a case from Wisconsin; the gerrymandering case that has been in the news.  As background, the Republican-dominated state legislature adopted redistricting maps for state Assembly districts in 2011.  Many Democrats cried foul after Republican election victories in 2012 and 2014.  In 2015, a lawsuit was filed in the federal District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin alleging unconstitutionally partisan redistricting.  The lead plaintiff was a UW professor named William Whitford.  The plaintiffs were successful in the District Court, winning a 2-1 decision on November 21, 2016, that found the redistricting maps unconstitutional.  The Whitford case was the first in which a federal court found that there was partisan gerrymandering, rather than, say, racial gerrymandering.

The Supreme Court agreed to take the Whitford case in June.  An interesting aspect of this case is that it will be the first time the Supreme Court will consider a partisan redistricting case based upon 1st Amendment Freedom of Association along with 14th Amendment Equal Protection.  Will Justice Gorsuch employ a textualist approach to the issues and how will he resolve them?  Will Justice Kennedy be, once again, the swing vote?  Arguments to the Court will take place later this year.  Stay tuned.