U.S. Supreme Court justices ruled Monday that the federal government might step in and draw legislative boundaries in some instances when state processes fail. The decision upholds a federal court's boundaries for Mississippi's congressional districts.
Justices were sharply divided in parts of the ruling, but unanimously agreed that federal judges were right to block a state court plan that favored Democrats. They say that plan had not been pre-cleared for racial bias by the Justice Department.
The court refused to address a broader question, which would have affected redistricting disputes in every state, about the proper venue for those disputes.
Justices had been asked to decide if the Constitution lets state judges, not federal courts, handle congressional redistricting cases. In early 2002, with elections approaching, Justice Antonin Scalia denied an emergency appeal by Mississippi Democrats, which cleared the way for the state to use a map drawn up by three federal judges.