Missouri Supreme Court rules in favor of new maps for state House, U.S. House
Almost two months after Missouri’s candidate filing ended, the state Supreme Court has issued the decision that U.S. Rep. Russ Carnahan had feared the most.
The court affirmed the constitutionality of the map drawing up new boundary lines for Missouri’s remaining eight congressional districts. That map had, in effect, eviscerated Carnahan’s 3rd District in the St. Louis area.
The court decision was 4-3, but it does not specify who wrote the majority opinion supporting the map.
In a separate ruling, the court also sided with the new map drawn for the states’ 163 state House districts. That ruling was unanimous, 7-0, but the judges disagreed on the reasons.
Supreme Court Judge Patricia Breckenridge was joined by three other members of the court in one explanation for affirming the state House map, while three others offered up another.
Both rulings were particularly complicated because several Supreme Court judges, all from the St. Louis area, had recused themselves from one or both cases. They did not provide a reason. Those judges were replaced by appellete judges for the two cases.
The court’s decisions in both cases had been expected for some time, although Carnahan had continued to hope that the Supreme Court would toss out the new congressional map and order legislators to draw up a new one.
Still, Carnahan had filed in February in the new 1st District, against fellow St. Louis incumbent William Lacy Clay. About a fifth of the new 1st is taken from Carnahan’s current district. Carnahan's home also is in the new 1st.
The map had been drawn in 2011 by the Republican-controlled General Assembly, which then overrode the veto of Gov. Jay Nixon, a fellow Democrat, who contended the map had unfairly tilted too Republican.
Carnahan, D-St. Louis, was the target of Republican legislators because Missouri was losing one of its current nine congressional districts.
Carnahan told reporters in a conference call that "what this means is that we are stuck with badly gerrymandered districts..."
He acknowledged that the court fight was over, but said that he had fulfilled his pledge "to leave no stone unturned" in his quest for a new map.
Carnahan contended that the court's decision will be an issue in his primary battle against Clay.
Carnahan noted that Clay's lawyer had filed a "friend of the court brief" in favor of the map.
Carnahan blames Clay for the successful override of Nixon’s veto because two legislators close to Clay provided two of the four Democratic votes needed. Clay has denied any behind-the-scenes role in the override.
Carnahan and the allied Democrats who filed suit against the map contended, among other things, that it unfairly treated St. Louis by reducing the region's congressional representation.
Carnahan said it's unfair and improper for the St. Louis area to have only two congressional districts, instead of three, when the region contains close to 40 percent of the state's population. He called the court's ruling "an important case for redistricting reform."
In the ruling affirming the map, the court majority said that a lower-court judge, Daniel Greene, had ruled correctly when he said that the map did comply with the state's "compactness" mandate.
State Supreme Court Judge Ray Price, who had been appointed by a Republican governor, wrote the dissenting opinion against the congressional map, which was joined by two other judges.
But Price’s opposition had nothing to do with Carnahan’s 3rd District.
Rather, Price objected to how the new map treats the 5th District in the Kansas City area, and the neighboring 6th District, which stretches across the top quarter of the state. Price’s objections reflected his comments during last winter’s oral arguments, when he questioned the constitutionality of a Kansas City area portion of the 6th that stretches like a finger into the 5th.
(Begin update) State Rep. John Diehl, R-Town and Country, had been one of the chief architects of the congressional map. "We're very pleased with the court decision," Diehl said.
Alluding to the court's lengthy deliberations, he quipped, "My long ordeal is over." (End of update)