A federal appeals court on Thursday temporarily suspended a lower court’s ruling that Louisiana redraw its six-district congressional map to add a new majority-black district.
The administrative stay was issued to suspend the injunction order of U.S. Middle District Judge Shelly Dick, an appointee of former President Barrack Obama, who ruled in favor of a voting rights group on June 6.
The New Orleans Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals suspended Dick’s order requiring Louisiana to redraw its congressional map by June 20 while the case is pending.
The appeals court order by the three-judge panel is not final. Two of the judges were appointed by Republican presidents, the Washington Post reported.
This is the latest move in a legal battle between the majority-GOP legislature and Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards.
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry announced the ruling on Twitter, saying, “The Fifth Circuit has issued a stay of the district court judge’s injunction on Louisiana Congressional redistricting maps.”
— AG Jeff Landry (@AGJeffLandry) June 10, 2022
Louisiana has a one-third black population which the governor cited as a reason lawmakers should have included a second majority-black district when drawing the new congressional maps.
In March, the GOP-led legislature overrode Edwards’ veto of its adopted district maps, prompting a legal challenge by civil rights group, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc.
Dick, whose ruling came in response to that lawsuit, found the map violated the Voting Rights Act and in her decision said the court would redraw its own congressional boundaries if the legislature failed to do so, according to the Daily Advertiser.
Following the ruling, the governor on June 7 called for an extraordinary session of the Louisiana Legislature set for June 15 to redraw the congressional map (pdf).
The Associated Press reported that State Senate President Page Cortez and House Speaker Clay Schexnayder said Friday that the extraordinary session should be canceled.
“Before the judicial redistricting process is complete, any special session would be premature and a waste of taxpayer money,” they wrote.
In a June 10 letter to Cortez and Schexnayder, Edwards said that it was premature to cancel the special session.
“I remain hopeful that the Fifth Circuit will vacate the administrative stay and allow Judge Dick’s well-reasoned decision and injunction to remain in place,” Edwards wrote (pdf). “I believe the legislature can and should meet next week to enact maps that create a second majority minority district.”
I sent a letter to the Senate President & Speaker of the House explaining why it’s premature to cancel the Extraordinary Session, which I called after the Middle District Court ruled that the congressional maps drawn by Republicans violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. pic.twitter.com/aiLx7O4Lf5
— John Bel Edwards (@LouisianaGov) June 10, 2022
However, he noted that if the stay remains in place by 4 p.m. on June 14, the day before state lawmakers are set to convene, he will rescind the extraordinary session.
“Should the Court retain a stay over Judge Dick’s decision, I agree that further action of the legislature should be delayed until the Fifth Circuit can review the merits of her decision.”
The redistricting counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Kathryn Sadasivan, decried the current district boundaries, saying it “continues to pack black voters from New Orleans and Baton Rouge into a single congressional district.”
She said that having only one majority-black district dilutes black political power.