A panel of federal judges on Tuesday declared Virginia’s congressional maps unconstitutional because they concentrate African American voters into a single district at the expense of their influence elsewhere.

The decision, handed down in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, orders the Virginia General Assembly to draw up new congressional maps by April — potentially launching a frenzied and highly political battle for survival within Virginia’s congressional delegation.

The order delivered another victory for Democratic plaintiffs hoping to break up black-majority districts, which they say have been drawn by Republicans who have used the Voting Rights Act to dilute the influence of minority voters.


4 thoughts on “Court declares Virginia’s congressional map unconstitutional

  1. Is there a special statute in districting cases that requires a three-judge panel at the trial court level? (This is the first time I noticed a 3-judge panel in such cases.)

    Second, this court has a seriously outdated printer. If you look at the opinion, it looks like it was printed by a SIDM (serial impact dot matrix) printer from the late 1970s and early 1980s. I haven’t seen such ugly work product for 30 years, since the invention of laser jet printing. Take a look at it. The font looks like a machine on “draft” mode and the letters do not align correctly. It looks like the keys on an impact printer were bent. Just looking at it brings back bad memories.


    • The federal court system has many legal categories where a panel or of judges, or individual judges, are assigned to issue preliminary and more affirmative rulings on a case-by-case basis. For example: 1) Recently, a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals initially ruled against tax subsides for Obamacare enrollees through the federal healthcare exchange, then later reversed its decision upon the likelihood that the case would be taken up by the full D.C. Circuit Court. 2) Yesterday, U.S. Supreme Court justice Anthony Kennedy granted a temporary hold on same-sex marriages in Idaho. 3) Very soon, U.S. Supreme Court justice Elena Kagan will rule on whether Wisconsin’s voter id law will remain in-effect for the 2014 midterm elections. For more information, see: http://www.uscourts.gov/FederalCourts.aspx

      And yes, considering the tight budgetary constraints government at all levels are experiencing these days, this example of outdated technology being used in the U.S. District Court of Eastern Virginia should not be any real surprise.


  2. I should have looked this up myself instead of bothering you. There is in fact a statute specifically requiring 3 judge panels in federal district courts in redistricting cases. 28 U.S.C. Section 2284 provides: “A district court of three judges shall be convened when otherwise required by Act of Congress, or when an action is filed challenging the constitutionality of the apportionment of congressional districts or the apportionment of any statewide legislative body.”

    Normally federal district courts ar trial courts and there is only one judge who conducts the case from start to finish. The examples you cite are appellate courts. Circuit Courts of Appeal almost always act in three-judge panels. The examples of Supreme Court Justice acting individuall are because each Justice is assigned a Circuit for purposes of making emergecy equitable decisions (stays, etc.) needed to be acted upon before the entir Court can hear the case.


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