- The Washington Times - Monday, October 18, 2004

From combined dispatches

The Supreme Court yesterday ordered further consideration of a challenge by Democrats and minority groups to a Republican-backed congressional redistricting plan in Texas.

The justices in a brief order granted an appeal by those challenging the plan and set aside a ruling by a federal three-judge panel in January that upheld the bitterly contested map.

The justices ordered further review by the federal panel in view of its ruling in April that upheld a Pennsylvania redistricting case. They did not elaborate further.

Those challenging the redistricting plan, which had been strongly supported by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas, argued that it was an unconstitutional gerrymander and that it diluted the voting strength of minorities.

They challenged whether redistricting plans can be redrawn in the middle of the decade to maximize partisan advantage. Congressional districts usually are drawn once, early in the decade, right after the release of new U.S. Census data.

After the 2000 census, the Texas Legislature failed to act on redistricting, and a court-drawn plan was adopted.

After months of turmoil, the redistricting plan advocated by Texas Republicans finally won approval last year in a third special session called by Republican Gov. Rick Perry. Democrats twice stymied efforts to adopt the plan by leaving the state and denying Republicans a quorum.

Those challenging the plan told the Supreme Court that it shifted more than 8 million Texans into new districts and was designed for the Republicans to pick up as many as seven seats now held by Democrats in the House.

“The 2003 Texas congressional redistricting is proof that the redistricting process in this country has gone completely haywire,” their attorneys said in asking the high court to reverse the ruling of the three-judge panel.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, a Republican, urged the Supreme Court to summarily affirm the panel’s ruling. “This case raises no new questions of fact or law,” he said, adding that the questions presented are “insubstantial.”

In other action yesterday, the Supreme Court:

• Agreed to review an appeal by Missouri death row inmate Carman Deck who says his constitutional rights were violated because he was kept shackled and handcuffed to a belly chain in front of jurors.

• Refused to consider whether former Arkansas Gov. Jim Guy Tucker was wrongly barred from raising new arguments in challenging his 1998 conviction for tax conspiracy.

• Declined to resurrect a lawsuit by three California women who say the Planned Parenthood Federation of America withholds information linking abortions to breast cancer.

• Declined to consider an appeal in Mississippi’s college desegregation case by black plaintiffs who wanted to opt out of a proposed 2002 settlement that guarantees the state’s three historically black state universities $503 million.

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