Federal judge throws out Louisiana's congressional map with one Black district; state to appeal

Greg Hilburn
Lafayette Daily Advertiser
House Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman John Stefanski, R-Crowley, left, and vice Chairman Royce Duplessis, D-New Orleans, discuss redistricting during a committee hearing on Feb. 8, 2022.

Louisiana's new congressional maps have been thrown out by a federal judge because the Legislature didn't draw a second majority Black district and Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards has called a Special Session asking lawmakers to draw new boundaries.

U.S. Middle District Judge Shelly Dick on Monday ordered the Legislature to redraw the six-district map by June 20 or the court will draw its own map "compliant with the laws and Constitution of the United States."

On Tuesday Edwards called a Special Session to begin at noon June 15 and end no later than 6 p.m. June 20.

Louisiana Republican Attorney General Jeff Landry said he will immediately appeal Dick's ruling to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and ask for an expedited ruling.

"We believe (Dick) erred in her decision and have filed a notice of appeal," Landry quickly tweeted after Monday's ruling. "We look forward to the Fifth Court halting the ruling!"

Louisiana's Legislature passed the new maps during a Special Session in February.

Edwards vetoed the map, saying it was unfair and unconstitutional because lawmakers kept one majority-Black seat even as the Black population had increased to about 33% during the past decade.

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But Republicans secured the two-thirds votes needed in both the House (72-31) and Senate (27-11) to override Edwards' veto on March 30.

Qualifying for Louisiana's Nov. 8 congressional election is set for July 20-22 for now.

The Louisiana House and Senate Governmental Affairs Committees crafted the congressional map.

Republican Crowley Rep. John Stefanski, chairman of the House Governmental Affairs Committee, said Monday he still believes the map is legal and will be confirmed on appeal.

"I'm not terribly surprised by this court's ruling because I think it was a friendly forum for the plaintiffs," Stefanski told USA Today Network. "We have to just wait and see the appeals process through." 

Republican Slidell Sen. Sharon Hewitt, chair of Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, expressed similar sentiments.

"I'm still confident in the map as it was drawn and I'm looking forward to see how it plays out in court," Hewitt said.

Louisiana's new six-district Congressional map kept a similar configuration to the previous one with a single majority-Black district based in New Orleans and part of Baton Rouge represented by Democratic Congressman Troy Carter of New Orleans.

It preserved two vertical northern Louisiana districts with Shreveport as the population hub of the 4th District represented by GOP Congressman Mike Johnson of Benton and Monroe as the population hub of the 5th District represented by GOP Congresswoman Julia Letlow of Start.

Greg Hilburn covers state politics for the USA TODAY Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1.