Speaker Bill Howell addresses congressional redistricting case

Bill HowellBy Lynn R. Mitchell

Virginia House of Delegates Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford) issued a press release Friday addressing Page v. Va. State Board of Elections, the federal court case pending before the United States Supreme Court regarding Virginia’s congressional district map.

In his press release, the Speaker noted:

“The Virginia House of Delegates fully intends to exercise its legal right to attempt to remedy any legal flaw ultimately found by the courts with respect to the current congressional districts. However, we believe it would be inappropriate to act before the defendants have fully litigated this case. We are confident that a stay will be granted.

“When a court finds a legal flaw in a redistricting map, as the Eastern District Court has done in this case, well-established law dictates the jurisdiction has the right to remedy that flaw. The Judges recognized this in their decision, ordering the General Assembly to remedy the map no later than April 1, 2015.

“However, the defendants appeal has taken longer than the District Court anticipated. Typically, summary affirmation by the United States Supreme Court is provided one or two weeks after all briefs have been filed. Almost six weeks has expired since that time, indicating that the Supreme Court is very carefully considering this case. Without a clear resolution from the Supreme Court, it is not clear there are any true legal flaws in the current map, and, if there are, their true nature is not known.

“If the General Assembly were to pass a new redistricting map and if it were signed by the Governor, the current appeal before the United States Supreme Court would be mooted. That would interfere with the right of the defendants to have the merits of this case fully litigated and would be inappropriate. We do not believe that the District Court intended to force the legislature to choose between its legal right to remedy any legal flaws that might ultimately be found or the defendants’ right to appeal and fully litigate the case.

“Because of that, we are confident a stay will be granted. Currently, the defendants have a motion for stay before the District Court, which we believe will be granted. If the District Court does not grant the stay, then application to the Circuit Justice of the Supreme Court should be made and we believe the stay would ultimately be granted.”

For background on Virginia’s congressional redistricting, see Court tosses redistricting map.

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