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Lawyers challenging the Republican-led middecade redistricting plan in Texas will be writing through the holidays as they race to file briefs with the Supreme Court on an expedited schedule. They were caught off-guard Dec. 12 when the Supreme Court agreed to hear their plea without first having received any response about taking the case from the state of Texas. The Court considered the cases at six separate private conferences — suggesting internal debate — but Texas waived its right to appeal, and the Court did not ask for its views. “It was most unusual that the Court did not call for a response from Texas,” says retired deputy Court clerk Francis Lorson. Two hours of argument have been set for March 1. Jenner & Block partner Paul Smith, a lead lawyer for the challengers, says the Court’s action was “somewhat surprising, but there are a lot of substantial federal questions.” Smith, who argued in Vieth v. Jubelirer, the Court’s last gerrymandering case, says former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay’s role in the redistricting, as well as recent reports of division in the Justice Department over the case, may be “in the background” but aren’t directly at issue. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said at a press conference that he now welcomes high court review.
Tony Mauro can be contacted at [email protected].

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