(CN) — The Supreme Court on Monday denied an emergency appeal by Pennsylvania Republicans to block the implementation of new congressional maps, a significant blow to the GOP that makes it far more likely that the new maps will be in place for the 2018 elections.
The decision Monday afternoon came hours after a panel of federal judges in the Middle District of Pennsylvania ruled against Pennsylvania Republicans in a related challenge to a district map developed last month by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
As is their custom, the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court did not explain the rationale for rejecting the case.
Meanwhile the ruling in Pennsylvania came with a day left for the state's congressional candidates to circulate petitions to get on the May 15 primary ballot.
In January, the Democratic majority on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the map Republicans crafted in 2011 amounted to an unconstitutional gerrymander.
After lawmakers in the GOP-controlled General Assembly and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf didn't produce a replacement, the state court enacted its own.
Following a scheduling hearing on March 1, the panel of federal judges granted the eighteen individual state-court petitioners leave to intervene in the case. On March 9, a full hearing was held on a number of motions, including the Republican plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction.
On Monday the panel, comprised of U.S. Circuit Judge Kent Jordan and U.S. District Judges Christopher Conner and Jerome Simandle held "the federal Elections Clause violations that the plaintiffs allege are not the plaintiffs' to assert.
"Because fundamental principles of constitutional standing and judicial restraint prohibit us from exercising jurisdiction, we have no authority to take any action other than to dismiss the plaintiffs' verified complaint," the per curiam ruling states. "Moreover, the deficiencies identified herein are legal rather than factual in nature. Accordingly, we conclude that leave to amend would be futile. For the foregoing reasons, the plaintiffs' verified complaint will be dismissed, and plaintiffs' motion for preliminary injunction will be denied.
"The plaintiffs invite us to opine on the appropriate balance of power between the Commonwealth's legislature and judiciary in redistricting matters, and then to pass judgment on the propriety of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's actions under the United States Constitution," the opinion reads. "These are things that, on the present record, we cannot do."