WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Sept. 16, a three-judge panel for the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin allowed two cases suing for fair maps in Wisconsin to move forward, consolidating the suits as litigation continues. The cases, Hunter v. Bostelmann and Black Leaders Organizing for Communities v. Spindell, were filed within days of the release of 2020 census data in August. The complaints argue that Wisconsin’s current maps are now unconstitutionally malapportioned in light of the census data and ask the court to prohibit the use of current maps in future elections. Further, given the high likelihood that new maps will not be passed in time for the 2022 elections due to partisan gridlock in the state, the suits ask that the district court step in and implement new maps that fairly and constitutionally represent Wisconsin’s current population if the state Legislature is unable to do so. Given the similarities between the cases, the order states “that it is appropriate to consolidate the two actions for all purposes, to provide the most efficient resolution of the related claims raised by the parties in the two cases.” The Republican-controlled Wisconsin Legislature, plaintiffs in a state court lawsuit brought by the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL), five Republican Congressmen and Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) were granted intervention to participate in the consolidated case.
In allowing the consolidated case to continue, the order denied two motions to dismiss and one motion to stay in Hunter. The panel dismissed the argument that the plaintiffs’ “injuries are purely speculative because the legislative redistricting process has not yet had a chance to fail.” The panel also rejected the motion to indefinitely pause the case while WILL’s lawsuit is adjudicated in state court, pointing out that federal courts have intervened in Wisconsin’s last three redistricting cycles when the state could not agree on new maps, though a limited stay will be discussed at the parties’ upcoming status conference next week. In moving forward with the case, the court ensured that it “will set a schedule that will allow for the timely resolution of the case should the state process languish or fail.”