For better or worse, Tom DeLay's fate lays in the hands of Antonin Scalia.
As I just reported, the Texas GOP has filed an application with Justice Scalia to block the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling. Scalia's decision, expected within the next couple weeks, will determine once and for all whether Tom DeLay will be forced to run again for his congressional seat.
Why? Because the Supreme Court will not be able to hear the case before the election. Texas GOP lawyer James Bopp said that the GOP will still pursue the case even if Scalia doesn't block the Fifth Circuit's ruling -- but that "from a practical standpoint," he told me, the GOP will have lost the case if Scalia doesn't go along.
If Scalia granted the application, then the Texas GOP would be able to immediately begin fielding a replacement for DeLay. If Scalia did not grant it, then DeLay would remain on the ballot -- forcing him to either run again or allow the Democrat, Nick Lampson, to run without a GOP opponent.
Now imagine this: There's one tricky scenario that could have the Republicans winning the seat in the election, but then losing it to the court's decision. If Scalia grants the stay, and the Republicans field a successful replacement candidate who goes on to win in November, the case would still go to the Supreme Court. If the Democrats won there, effectively annulling the Republican's victory, then the election could be successfully challenged by the Dems. It's not immediately clear what would happen in such a knotty situation (special election?), but it would be yet another instance burnishing the litigious legacy of Tom DeLay.