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Law School Case Brief

Benisek v. Lamone - 138 S. Ct. 1942 (2018)

Rule:

A preliminary injunction is an extraordinary remedy never awarded as of right. As a matter of equitable discretion, a preliminary injunction does not follow as a matter of course from a plaintiff’s showing of a likelihood of success on the merits. Rather, a court must also consider whether the movant has shown that he is likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief, that the balance of equities tips in his favor, and that an injunction is in the public interest.

Facts:

In May 2017, six years after the Maryland General Assembly redrew the Sixth Congressional District, plaintiffs, several Republican voters, moved the District Court to enjoin Maryland’s election officials from holding congressional elections under the 2011 map. They asserted that extending this constitutional offense , the alleged gerrymandering,into the 2018 election would "be a manifest and irreparable injury.”  In order to allow time for the creation of a new districting map, plaintiffs urged the District Court to enter a preliminary injunction within the next two months.

The District Court denied plaintiffs’ motion and stayed further proceedings pending the United States Supreme Court’s disposition of partisan gerrymandering claims in another case.  In denying the preliminary injunction, the District Court found that plaintiffs had failed to show a likelihood of success on the merits sufficient to warrant a preliminary injunction, specifically that it was “in no position to award plaintiffs the remedy they... requested on the timetable they ... demanded.” Plaintiffs sought certiorari review in the United States Supreme Court and asked the Supreme Court to vacate the District Court’s order and remand for further consideration of whether a preliminary injunction was appropriate.

Issue:

Did the district court abuse its discretion in denying a preliminary injunction?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The United States Supreme Court concluded that the  district court did not abuse its discretion in denying a preliminary injunction in the gerrymandering case where even assuming that the voters were likely to succeed on the merits, the voters had not sought an injunction until six years after the redistricting map had been adopted, the date for timely completing a new redistricting scheme in advance of the upcoming election season had passed, and deferring its ruling in the face of the legal uncertainty surrounding any potential remedy was within its sound discretion.

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