Questions have recently arisen about the commitment of Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito to the one-person, one-vote rule based on a memo he wrote while working as a lawyer in the Reagan administration. By accepting the Texas case, the high court has guaranteed Judge Alito will face even closer and more aggressive scrutiny on the issue in his confirmation hearings.
The Texas redistricting plan is also at the center of Mr. DeLay's September indictment for allegedly violating Texas campaign-finance laws. The campaign funds in question were being used to support Republican candidates for the newly drawn districts.
The case arises as DeLay's lawyers push for a speedy trial in Texas in the campaign-finance case and as the 2006 congressional elections fast approach. Arguments in the Supreme Court case are likely to take place this spring, with a final decision by late June.
The case is being closely watched because it could set a national standard for redistricting, a standard that could invalidate districts across the country.
Texas Democrats filed seven different appeals to the Supreme Court asking the justices to examine whether gerrymandering by the Texas Republicans was so tainted by partisan considerations that it violated the constitutional guarantee of one person, one vote.
The Supreme Court attempted to address the political gerrymandering issue in April 2004 in a case called Vieth v. Jubelirer. It involved a challenge to a redistricting plan drawn up by Republicans in Pennsylvania.
In that case the justices split 4-4 on whether the courts had authority to second-guess statewide redistricting plans. The court's conservative wing held that lawsuits challenging political gerrymanders were outside the court's power to address because no manageable standards exist to demonstrate when political considerations go too far in the line- drawing process.