A federal district court rejected a claim Thursday by seven Maryland Republicans that the state’s 2011 redistricting violated their First Amendment rights, setting up another Supreme Court fight over the heavily litigated maps. In a case closely watched by state political leaders, the court found the plaintiffs failed to meet the standard required to order an immediate redrawing of the boundaries. In a 2-1 decision, the court said it wanted to see the outcome of a separate gerrymandering claim from Wisconsin pending before the Supreme Court before deciding the Maryland lawsuit. “The time and resources necessary to implement a new map would surely have the effect of scuttling other legislative priorities in advance of the 2018 [legislative] session,” the court wrote. “The remedy would be highly consequential.”
Michael B. Kimberly, an attorney representing the plaintiffs, said he intends to appeal — a move that will automatically put the Maryland congressional maps before the Supreme Court for the second time in as many years. Describing the state’s congressional district map as a “crazy quilt,” a unanimous Supreme Court allowed the case to proceed in late 2015.
But the decision Thursday meant that, for the time being, Maryland’s current congressional map is likely to remain in place for the 2018 midterm elections.
Brought by a group of Republican voters, the case is one of several pending in the federal court system that rely on new legal arguments to challenge the constitutionality of political gerrymandering. The lawsuit, filed in 2013, drew particular interest in Maryland after lawyers sharply questioned former Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, and leaders of the General Assembly about the motivations behind the congressional districts.