The largest known US uranium deposit will remain under ground after the Supreme Court today upheld a Virginia law that bans mining the metal, rejecting a challenge backed by the Trump's administration. But today it dealt with a politically significant case involving the older issue of racial gerrymandering - and did so in a manner that avoided the merits of the controversy.
In a victory for Democrats in Virginia, the Supreme Court held Monday that the Republican-led Virginia House of Delegates did not have the legal right to challenge a lower court opinion that struck several district maps they had drawn as an unconstitutional racial gerrymander.
The verdict comes after Attorney General Mark Herring (D) said he would not appeal the verdict by the United States District Court of Virginia, which ruled in 2015 that the remapping is constitutional, finding that race was not the controlling factor, but one in a package of other "race-neutral" considerations.
She added, "If the State had designated the House to represent its interests, and if the House had in fact carried out that mission, we would agree that the House could stand in for the State".
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a liberal, wrote the majority opinion, in which liberals Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, as well as conservatives Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch, joined. "Democrats are now only one seat away from taking control of the state house and senate, which would give them control over the redistricting process in 2021, when new lines are drawn".
Eric Holder, the former USA lawyer common throughout the Obama administration, called the resolution "a a need to love victory for African People in Virginia who like been pressured since 2011 to vote in racially gerrymandered districts that unfairly diluted their balloting energy".
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The high court's ruling was welcomed by Virginia House Democrats, who described it as "a major win for voting rights and civil rights in our commonwealth". They were redrawn, and then the state's GOP-controlled House intervened to take it to the Supreme Court. Virginia's attorney general declined to appeal, but the House continued the litigation when it asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case. "It's a good day for democracy in Virginia", Herring wrote on Twitter.
The political boundaries are important because Republicans now control the House by a 51-49 margin.
The House of Delegates, Ginsburg explained, argued first that it had standing to appeal to the Supreme Court to represent Virginia's interests. The federal government also filed a brief urging the Supreme Court to take up the case. Writing the dissent, Justice Alito said the court-drawn map "will harm the House in a very fundamental way". In particular, Alito explained, "it is precisely because of the connections between the way districts are drawn, the composition of a legislature, and the things that a legislature does that so much effort is invested in drawing, contesting, and defending districting plans".
In a statement released Monday, Speaker of the House Kirk Cox, who initiated the suit, vowed the fight was not over.
"The court's opinion today ends a disappointing saga of orchestrated attacks against the constitutionally enacted redistricting plan", Cox said in a statement.
On Monday, in a 5-4 decision, the court said the House of Delegates lacked standing to bring the case.