January 9, 2023

No decision yet after NM Supreme Court hears redistricting case oral arguments

Oral arguments in the case that claimed Republicans were gerrymandered out of a congressional seat during the recent redistricting cycle went in front of the state Supreme Court Monday.

The Republican Party of New Mexico and others filed the case against the State of New Mexico. Ninth Judicial District Judge Fred van Soelen filed a verified writ of superintending control against the state, prompting the high court to take the case.

Both sides presented their cases to the state’s high court which adjourned shortly after the hearing without making a decision.

“This is an issue of significant importance and we want to be deliberative,” Bacon said.” And because there is a stay in place and we’re a little ways out from the next electoral process, we don’t feel the need to act as quickly as we might otherwise. So you can deem as of today, this case is submitted for decision and we will get you the outcome as soon as practicable.”

According to the University of New Mexico Judicial Education Center, a writ of superintending control is “a writ issued to prevent a gross miscarriage of justice by correcting the erroneous ruling of a lower court that is acting within its jurisdiction but is making mistakes of law or is acting in willful disregard of the law. The writ is issued when there is no appeal or when an appeal cannot provide adequate relief.”

The oral arguments included questioning the Court’s jurisdiction in the matter, as it is a political issue, as well as both sides delivering arguments in the case.

The case was filed against Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, then-Speaker of the House Brian Egolf, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, Lt. Gov. Howie Morales and Senate President Pro Tem Mimi Stewart.

“The plaintiffs brought suit against the legislator, defendants the executive defendants and the Secretary of State alleging an unprovoked constitutional partisan gerrymander violation of the state’s Equal Protection Clause,” Plaintiff’s attorney David Gallegos said.

Plaintiffs allege that the redistricting maps that were approved diluted the votes of Republican voters.

Democrats won the traditionally conservative 2nd Congressional District in the 2022 elections under newly drawn lines. Democrats now represent all three of the state’s congressional districts for the third time since the state gained the third congressional district following redistricting in the 1980s.

Gallegos quoted U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan’s dissension in the Rucho v. Common Cause case where the Court ruled that although partisan gerrymandering is not compatible with a democratic republic, the federal courts are not the right place to argue allegations of gerrymandering due to the subject being political.

“I mean, the discussion we’ve had today clearly highlights the difficulty finding any sort of applicable standard,” Richard E. Olsen, defense attorney for the state, said. “You have one group of experts say one thing, the other group of experts say the other thing, and then at the end of the day, you’d have a court jumping in the political thicket.”

The Supreme Court adjourned at about 3 p.m. and there is no timeline for the decision to be filed.