Don’t forget to call your parents.
If you don’t, David Thornburgh found out Monday, you just might get a surprise phone call from a reporter: Hey, did you see your dad filed this brief with the U.S. Supreme Court?
“No. That’s very interesting,” said Thornburgh, laughing. “My mom called over the weekend. … It strikes me I should probably check in with them.”
Thornburgh is the head of the Philadelphia good-government group Committee of Seventy, which advocates ending gerrymandering by reforming the redistricting process. He’s not a fan of the previous Pennsylvania congressional map, widely considered an extreme partisan gerrymander drawn to favor Republicans, and thinks the new one is better.
His father is Dick Thornburgh, Republican governor of Pennsylvania from 1979 to 1987 and U.S. attorney general between 1988 and 1991. He has filed a brief, along with the chair of the Republican State Leadership Committee, asking the U.S. Supreme Court to block the new map.
The same new map that his son’s committee called “a clear improvement” over the 2011 map.
“Boy, is my face red,” David Thornburgh said Monday, still laughing.
It’s not exactly a family feud; the Thornburghs agree that the way districts are drawn must be changed, the younger one said, and worry about the confusion that has arisen since the new map was released. (Dad was unavailable Monday, according to his lawyer, David R. Fine.)
“Because I’ve talked about this with my folks and my dad quite a bit, I think we at this point both share the concern that this has been a chaotic and confusing and distressing process that we prefer not to repeat again,” David Thornburgh said. His focus is on reforming the actual process, not on fighting over the court’s map; his father’s focus, in the brief, is on the constitutional law questions raised by the court’s actions, not the map itself.
Dick Thornburgh was careful to note in his brief that he and Bill McCollum, the former U.S. representative from Florida and state attorney general who chairs the RSLC, “take no position here on the suitability of Pennsylvania’s 2011 redistricting plan.”
Interactive: Compare the new map with the proposed fixes for Pa.’s gerrymandered congressional map
Instead, they echo the concerns of State Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R., Jefferson) and House Speaker Mike Turzai (R., Allegheny) about the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s actions: By imposing a tight timeline for the legislature to draw a new map, and then drawing its own map for use in the upcoming elections, the state Supreme Court has essentially acted like a legislature, taking power that the U.S. Constitution gives to state legislatures to run elections and draw congressional maps.
“The Pennsylvania Supreme Court exceeded its authority in implementing its own plan — particularly in doing so without allowing the General Assembly a meaningful opportunity to enact a new, compliant plan,” McCollum and the elder Thornburgh wrote in their brief, filed Friday.
It was the first of several filings submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court in a high-profile redistricting case that has already reshaped the 2018 elections. After the Pennsylvania Supreme Court imposed its new map, Scarnati and Turzai asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene to block the map, setting the clock back and reusing the 2011 map one more time. Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. asked for responses to that request, due Monday afternoon.
The participants in the original Pennsylvania case filed their responses Monday. Gov. Wolf and other members of the executive branch ask the court not to block the map, as do the Democratic voters who brought the original state case in the first place and Democratic Lt. Gov. Mike Stack.
Meanwhile, a group of Republican voters and state officials asked the court to stop the new map.
And other groups also filed friend of the court briefs in support of the Republican lawmakers: the state Republican Party, the American Civil Rights Union, and the Eagle Forum Education and Legal Defense Fund, the conservative group based in St. Louis and founded by Phyllis Schlafly.
Monday’s filings represented the latest in a sequence of legal maneuvers. A few weeks ago, after the state high court overturned the map, Scarnati and Turzai asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene. Alito also requested responses that time, then ultimately denied the request without comment.
This second attempt uses essentially the same legal argument as the first, with the main difference being “ripeness” — the idea that the first request raised hypothetical issues, while the new one is based on actions that did occur.
Legal experts have said that U.S. Supreme Court intervention is unlikely.
With responses in hand, the court has no formal deadline for deciding whether to step into the case, but is likely to do so within just a few days because of the fast election timeline ahead, experts and court observers said. Candidates have already begun circulating papers to get on the ballot under the new map, and the primary election is scheduled for May 15.