GOP tries to scare court into rejecting Democratic congressional districts

Can Republicans scare the Connecticut Supreme Court into rejecting new congressional districts recommended last week by a court-appointed special master?

In a brief filed today, the GOP warned that acceptance of the plan invites “a system of legislative gridlock, followed by court adoption of a status quo plan.”

The brief is an obvious appeal to the court’s worst fear: legislative deadlocks that leave the justices forever stuck with what the court says is “quintessentially a legislative function.”

Of course, redistricting is a chore that comes up only once every 10 years, so the justices might not feel personally burdened by overseeing the drawing of new district maps.

Three of the seven justices reach mandatory retirement age of 70 next year, and several others could be reasonably expected to take their leave before 2022.

But in a brief filed on behalf of Republicans on the legislature’s bipartisan Reapportionment Commission, lawyer Ross H. Garber argues that the court is creating a dynamic bad for the institution.

The rationale is simple: The court instructed the special master to give deference to the existing plan crafted 10 years ago by legislators, so Democrats will forever have an incentive to stick with those district borders.

(All five U.S. House seats are now held by Democrats, but three of the districts have changed hands in the past 10 years.)

If Democrats know the court intends to use the 2001 map as a base, they never will have a reason to compromise with the GOP, forever forcing the court the break the deadlock.

In its instructions to Nathaniel Persily, the Columbia professor appointed as special master, the court insisted Persily give deference to the existing plan.

“By mandating only the fewest changes required by law, the Order required the Special Master to disregard the process that led to the current gerrymandered districts and required him to recommend a plan to the court that would perpetuate this result for another ten years and…perhaps indefinitely,” Garber wrote.

Garber’s pitch is a longshot.

On the day Persily released his plan, House Minority Leader Lawrence F. Cafero Jr., the co-chairman of the reapportionment panel, conceded that the Democrats had won.