Shapiro v. McManus - Post-Decision SCOTUScast

SCOTUScast 12-14-15 featuring Michael T. Morley
Featuring Michael T. Morley
December 14, 2015

On December 8, 2015, the Supreme Court decided Shapiro v. McManus. In this case several Maryland citizens sued state election officials claiming that a 2011 redistricting plan violated their rights to political association and equal representation under the First and Fourteenth Amendments.  Although federal law normally requires such claims to be heard by a three-judge federal court, a single judge dismissed the suit for failure to state a claim, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed.

The question before the Supreme Court was whether a single-judge federal district court may determine that a claim governed by the Three-Judge Court Act is insubstantial, and that three judges therefore are not required--not because it concludes that the complaint is wholly frivolous, but because it concludes that the complaint fails to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).

By a vote of 9-0, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Fourth Circuit and remanded the case. Justice Scalia delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court, holding that the citizens’ redistricting challenge was not so insubstantial that it could be dismissed by a single judge, and should have been considered by a three-judge Court.

To discuss the case, we have Michael T. Morley, who is Assistant Professor at Barry University School of Law.

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