By Jake Kaplan

Here are some of the legal news stories making headlines this week:

The Department of Justice sued Texas over the state’s election map.

  • Ahead of the 2022 election, states must redraw their legislative districts based on the results of the 2020 census.
  • According to DOJ’s lawsuit, Texas’s redistricting plans “diluted the voting strength of minority Texans,” particularly Latino voters, in violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The lawsuit notes that despite the growth in Texas’s Latino population, the proposed legislative districts for Texas’s congressional delegation and the Texas House of Representatives awarded two new seats to non-Latino White Texan voting majorities.  
  • Specifically, Texas “eliminated a Latino electoral opportunity in Congressional District 23…failed to draw a seat encompassing the growing Latino electorate in Harris County…[and] surgically excised minority communities from the core of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex by attaching them to heavily Anglo rural counties.”
  • At a press conference announcing the lawsuit, Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta said, “This is not the first time Texas has acted to minimize the voting rights of its minority citizens. Decade after decade, courts have found that Texas has enacted redistricting plans that deliberately dilute the voting strength of Latino and Black voters and that violate the Voting Rights Act.” 
  • In response to the lawsuit, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton tweeted, “The Department of Justice’s absurd lawsuit against our state is the Biden Administration’s latest ploy to control Texas voters. I am confident that our legislature’s redistricting decisions will be proven lawful, and this preposterous attempt to sway democracy will fail.”

Also this week, President Joe Biden’s commission to study Supreme Court reforms released its final report.

  • Biden formed the commission in April “to provide an analysis of the principal arguments…for and against Supreme Court reform,” including “the length of service and turnover of justices on the Court; the membership and size of the Court; and the Court’s case selection, rules, and practices.”
  • The commission was comprised of bipartisan attorneys, legal scholars, and former judges, including former White House counsel Bob Bauer, the outgoing President & Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund Sherrilyn Ifill, and former U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit judge Thomas Griffith.
  • On Tuesday, the commission voted 34-0 to endorse the report. In it, the commission does not take an official stance on the issues, but it lays out the arguments on both sides of the debate.
  • For example, a proposal to set staggered 18-year terms for justices seems to have some support among commissioners. The report states that this proposal “warrants serious consideration.” However, a proposal to increase the number of justices on the Court created “profound disagreement among commissioners.”
  • It is unclear whether Biden will act on any of the policies presented in the report. At a press briefing, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said, “It’s not recommendations that he either accepts or denies. He’ll have to review it first and I don’t think we’re going to set a timeline for what that looks like and what it will mean after that.”