Federal judges to hear Pennsylvania district map challenge

Lawsuit argues state court overstepped authority

HARRISBURG, Pa. - Three Republican-appointed federal judges will consider a request by eight GOP congressmen in Pennsylvania, including two who represent Berks County, to halt the use of a new congressional district map in this year's elections.

A federal judge Friday set up the panel under a federal law governing constitutional challenges to congressional reapportionment.

The panel members are Judge Christopher Conner, a Pennsylvania-based district judge; Judge Jerome Simandle, a senior district judge from New Jersey; and Judge Kent Jordan, a circuit judge who was formerly a district judge in Delaware.

Conner and Jordan were chosen for the federal bench by President George W. Bush, while Simandle was nominated by President George H.W. Bush.

The federal lawsuit, filed Thursday against state elections officials by Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman and Sen. Mike Folmer, the chairman of the Senate's State Government Committee, seeks an injunction against the map produced Monday by the Democratic majority on the state Supreme Court.

The plaintiffs are U.S. Reps. Ryan Costello and Lloyd Smucker, both of whom represent Berks County, and U.S. Reps. Lou Barletta, Mike Kelly, Tom Marino, Scott Perry, Keith Rothfus, and Glenn Thompson.

Their suit argues the state Supreme Court didn't have the authority to order a new map it put in place Monday. The plaintiffs also argue the state justices didn't give lawmakers enough time to develop a map to replace the one declared unconstitutional last month.

The new map has Costello's district including the heavily Democratic city of Reading, which had been represented by Smucker under the old map.

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