U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. on Wednesday asked participants in a key Pennsylvania gerrymandering case to respond to a request from top Republican lawmakers that the nation’s highest court step in and block the new congressional map. State Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R., Jefferson) and House Speaker Mike Turzai (R., Allegheny) have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stay the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s ruling overturning the previous congressional map and imposing a new one. Alito gave participants in the case until 3 p.m. Monday to file responses to that request. He made a similar move a few weeks ago after Scarnati and Turzai filed essentially the same request to step in and stop the Pennsylvania Supreme Court from overturning the state’s congressional map drawn in 2011. In that first request, Alito also sought responses from the parties in the case before ultimately denying the request without comment and without referring it to the whole court.
Both requests use the same basic legal argument, with the lawmakers saying the state court’s action violated the elections clause of the U.S. Constitution, which gives state legislatures the power to run elections.
Experts have said the current request for a stay is a long shot, especially because it is so similar to the previous one.
“The biggest tea leaf is probably what Justice Alito did the last time when he denied the stay without even referring it to the whole court,” Michael Li, a redistricting expert at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, said Wednesday. “Republicans are essentially making a variant of the same argument, so unless Justice Alito has changed his mind, it’s hard to see how you get five votes for a stay — and he may even decide again that this is not something that even needs to go to the whole court.”