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High Court Vindicates Justice Frankfurter's "Political Thicket' Warning of 58 Years Ago

High Court Vindicates Justice Frankfurter's "Political Thicket' Warning of 58 Years Ago

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Friday, 28 June 2019 11:19 AM Current | Bio | Archive

On Thursday, the Supreme Court ruled that so-called political “gerrymandering” — the drawing of congressional and legislative districts to favor one party over another — was an area the courts should not get into.”

In effect, the 5-to-4 ruling of the court vindicated a 1961 warning from then-Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter that “courts ought not to enter this political thicket” —meaning that whatever may seem unfair or egregious about the lines politicians drew for congressional and legislative districts, the courts weren’t going there.

"We conclude that partisan gerrymandering claims present political questions beyond the reach of the federal courts," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote on behalf of a 5-to-4 majority.

"Federal judges have no license to reallocate political power between the two major political parties, with no plausible grant of authority in the Constitution, and no legal standards to limit and direct their decisions.

In the “Colegrove v. Green” ruling of 1961, the Supreme Court followed Frankfurter’s “political thicket” advice and dismissed the plaintiff Colegrove’s claim that Illinois congressional districts were drawn with a partisan slant and thus unconstitutional.

A year later, however, the high court ignored Frankfurter and completely reversed itself in the famed “Baker v. Carr” ruling. This time, the courts said that Tennessee legislative districts based on outdated census data were indeed unconstitutional and had to be redrawn. This would set off a generation of cases which would toss out redistricting plans in different states based on data and resulting maps judges felt were unfair.

“Baker,” which put the judiciary in the “political thicket” in an unprecedented way, was later dubbed by Chief Justice Earl Warren the most important ruling of his years on the bench.

Frankfurher, who dissented vigorously, retired from the court in 1962 after 33 years on the bench. He died in 1965.

“[Roberts’ ruling] just confirms the long standing policy of the Supreme Court not to,get into the political mess of redistricting,” Jay O’Callaghan, a respected analyst of redistricting, told Newsmax, After all one party's gerrymander Is another party's fair map.”

O’Callaghan pointed out that, as of 2017, state legislatures controlled congressional redistricting in 42 states and legislative redistricting in 37 states.

“This way the voters can elect those who draw the districts instead of an appointed commission or judge who is not elected,” he said.

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
 

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On Thursday, the Supreme Court ruled that so-called political “gerrymandering” — the drawing of congressional and legislative districts to favor one party over another — was an area the courts should not get into.”
supreme court, felix frankfurter, john roberts
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2019-19-28
Friday, 28 June 2019 11:19 AM
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