PA broadcasting history: the PA Supreme Court goes live for the first time

In what may qualify as the ultimate Quixotic exercise, lawyers representing parties challenging the state’s new legislative boundary maps made their case - as they do every decade - before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

The big difference on Monday was that the public was able to listen in for the first time thanks to the court’s decision to allow the Pennsylvania Cable Network to broadcast the oral arguments live.

And they got treated to plenty of lively banter over the maps particularly from Democrats on the court: Justice Max Baer questioning the “iron cross”-shaped Senate district that courses through three counties in the mid-state. Justice Seamus McCaffery wondered how another Senate district that snakes from South Philly to Roxborough could be considered “compact” under the law.

Attorneys representing nine different plaintiffs argued there was no justification for splitting counties and municipalities - among them Upper Darby and Swarthmore - into politically gerrymandered districts.

Joseph Del Sole, an attorney for the bipartisan Legislative Reapportionment Commission, countered the charges of hundreds of splits in the final map were “inflated” and that the new GOP-drafted maps for the 50 Senate and 203 House seats “met constitutional standards.”

Republicans hold a 4 to 3 edge over Democrats on the high court.

In a moment of levity, one plaintiff’s attorney, Clifford Levine, said he it was an honor to appear before the court, to which Chief Justice Ronald Castille replied: “A lot of people say its great to be here, when they start.”

Castille said the court would issue its ruling “in all due haste.”

They had better.

Tuesday is the day all candidates begin circulating nominating petitions to gather signatures to qualify for the April 24 primary ballot and the deadline for filing is Feb. 14.

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