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Federal District Court and Supreme Court reject GOP challenges to new Pennsylvania election map
Federal District Court and Supreme Court reject GOP challenges to new Pennsylvania election map

The US District Court for the Middle of Pennsylvania [official website] on Monday dismissed [opinion, PDF] the lawsuit brought by Pennsylvania Republican legislators seeking to throw out the new electoral map [JURIST reports] designed by the state Supreme Court. Also on Monday, the US Supreme Court [official website] denied [order, PDF] a separate appeal from the original Pennsylvania Supreme Court case that resulted in the new congressional map.

The District Court dismissed the suit for lack of standing, finding that there has been no specific injury suffered either by the two state senators or the eight federal congressman who brought the claim to the court. In the complaint, Majority Leader Jake Corman and Government Committee Chair Michael Folmer [official websites] claimed that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court usurped the General Assembly in making the new map, which they asserted violates the federal Constitution’s Election Clause [Art. I § 4 text]. The District Court responded that the two senators cannot represent the whole institution of the General Assembly. The Senators acknowledged that the General Assembly as an institution could not bring the claim forward because of a potential issue preclusion as a result of the lost challenge in January. Since the two senators could not represent the General Assembly, they did not meet the standing necessary to file the alleged usurpation of the General Assembly.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court‟s alleged usurpation of the General Assembly‟s power did not deprive Senator Corman or Senator Fulmar of any rights vested personally in them by the Elections Clause. Any responsibilities afforded the State Legislative Plaintiffs by nature of their respective leadership positions in the Pennsylvania Senate derive from state law. Their claimed injury thus does not emanate from the federal Elections Clause.

The court also found that the federal congressman similarly lacked standing to challenge the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s ruling. After noting that the federal congressman asserted an injury based on potentially wasted campaign resources, the court found that, “[a]t bottom, the Federal Congressional Plaintiffs‟ injuries are traceable only to the court‟s decision to invalidate the 2011 Map and its mandate that a new map be adopted – acts that the Plaintiffs concede are ‘undoubtedly’ within the state court’s authority.” Finding therefore that none of the plaintiffs had standing to assert the claims before it, the District Court dismissed the action.

The Supreme Court also rebuffed [order, PDF] Republican challengers of the state’s new district map. Pennsylvania Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati and House Speaker Mike Turzai [official bios] had asked the Supreme Court to stay [JURIST report] the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s order setting aside the state’s 2011 congressional district map. The Supreme Court order dismisses the petition without explanation, although it does note that Justice Samuel Alito referred the case to the whole court for consideration, a departure from his earlier denial [JURIST report] of a substantially similar request.