A panel of three federal judges is hedging its order last week that Maryland redraw by March 7 the state’s 6th Congressional District, which the jurists said last week was so severely tilted to ensure a Democrat’s election that it violates Republican voters’ constitutional First Amendment right to political association.
If the state fails to meet the deadline, the panel said in an order Tuesday that it intends to appoint U.S. Magistrate Judge J. Mark Coulson to be special master over a court-created commission to redraw the district. The panel had already tasked Coulson with chairing the Congressional District Commission in the event of the state’s failure.
As special master, Coulson could “take testimony, hold hearings, and take whatever steps that, in his judgment, will reasonably assist the commission” in developing a valid redistricting plan, the judicial panel stated.
Attorneys for Maryland and the Republican voters who successfully challenged the district in western Maryland have until Dec. 13 to object to Coulson’s appointment, added U.S. District Judges James K. Bredar and George L. Russell III and 4th U.S. Circuit Judge Paul V. Niemeyer.