[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] unanimously Tuesday that a Maryland man’s congressional redistricting lawsuit should be heard by a special three-judge panel and may therefore proceed. In Shapiro v. McManus [SCOTUSblog backgrounder] the court was presented with the question of whether a single-judge district court may determine that a complaint made under the Three-Judge Panel Act [28 USC § 2284] is insubstantial after it concludes that the complaint fails to state a claim under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) [text], or if a three-judge panel is required. The court had ruled in Goosby v. Osser (1973) [opinion] that a three-judge court is not required when the claim is “insubstantial.” In Tuesday’s opinion, Justice Antonin Scalia [official profile] wrote that the claim “easily clears” the “low bar” set by Goosby for whether a three-judge panel should be convened to hear the case. The opinion states, “Perhaps petitioners will ultimately fail on the merits of their suit… [but the law] entitles them to make their case before a three-judge district court.”
The case arose [Oyez Project summary] after the Maryland General Assembly [official website] enacted a redistricting plan that many believed made it easier for Democrats to win in seven of the the state’s eight congressional districts. The new districts would be disconnected and would be largely inconsistent in terms of demographics. The plaintiffs are a group of citizens who sued the the Chair and Administrator of the Maryland State Board of Elections [official website] claiming that the new districts violate their rights to political association and equal representation under the First and Fourteenth Amendments.