STATE ASKS JUDGE TO TOSS SENATE MAP CHALLENGE

BRANDON LARRABEE | THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA | 12/19/2012

THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, December 19, 2012.......Lawyers for the Legislature asked a Leon County judge on Wednesday to throw out a lawsuit seeking to scrap the current districts for the Senate because the Florida Supreme Court had already rejected a challenge to the lines.

The dispute, in a case filed by a group of citizens and a coalition of voting rights groups against the Senate map, plows new ground and could set a standard in a redistricting environment altered by the approval in 2010 of the "Fair Districts" amendments aimed at ending gerrymandered districts.

Courts have already been forced to grapple with several new issues after lawmakers' first effort, earlier this year, to follow the rules during the once-a-decade redistricting process.

At issue in this case is a statement the constitution makes in a different section about the Supreme Court's automatic review of legislative redistricting maps: "A judgment of the supreme court of the state determining the apportionment to be valid shall be binding upon all the citizens of the state."

The motion to dismiss the challenge to Senate districts would not affect a similar effort to overturn the current maps for the state's congressional delegation because those plans are not reviewed by the Supreme Court.

Because justices approved a second draft of the Senate map — they voided the first draft — in April, attorneys for the House and Senate said Wednesday there was no room for new challenges.

"There is not a case anywhere to refute the notion that the Florida Supreme Court has exclusive jurisdiction over redistricting matters as it relates to the requirements in the state constitution," said George Meros, who represented the House during Wednesday's arguments.

The groups challenging the map, though, said the Supreme Court's review is meant only to handle "facial" challenges to the map that are easy to detect. More fact intensive challenges can still be heard later, said Adam Schachter, an attorney for the map's opponents.

Schachter said a full-fledged trial on the Senate maps could turn up evidence that the Supreme Court wasn't able to recover, and could prove that lawmakers broke the new constitutional standards that bar lawmakers from twisting lines for political or personal advantage.

Those kinds of challenges have to be heard to enforce the Fair Districts standards, he said.

"If it doesn't happen here, it won't happen," Schachter said. "And that means that amendment, which the citizens have made the law of this land, will be nothing more than words on a page."

Lewis said he would try to rule on the state's motion soon.


Legal Battle Looms Over Florida Congressional Districts

07/21/2014
With the midterm election a little more than three months away, a legal battle in Florida has cast uncertainty over the state's upcoming congressional races.

A state judge ruled this month that maps for two of Florida's 27 congressional districts violated the state constitution. He ordered the Legislature to redraw the maps.

The question now is when.

Like most states, Florida redrew the maps for its congressional districts after the 2010 census. Some states appoint special commissions to do the job, but in Florida, redistricting is done by the state Legislature. read more »

Politicos Ponder Fallout From Redistricting Ruling

07/14/2014
TALLAHASSEE (The News Service of Florida) — Members of Congress, candidates and political observers are grappling with the fallout of a judge's Thursday ruling that two of the state's congressional districts were illegally drawn for partisan reasons.

Lawyers on Friday were preparing to ask Leon County Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis to move quickly to prescribe a remedy for the flawed map. Meanwhile,

Democratic Congresswoman Corrine Brown blasted Lewis's decision, while a former congressman blamed the ruling after pulling the plug on a comeback attempt.

While Lewis declared that the GOP-dominated Legislature's maps were unconstitutional under the state's anti-gerrymandering standards approved by voters in 2010, he did not specifically lay out a fix for the districts. He could redraw the lines himself or order lawmakers to do it. read more »

New district map may not be a game-changer

07/13/2014
WASHINGTON - Most Democrats are cheering the Florida Circuit Court's judge ruling Thursday throwing out the congressional district map drawn by the GOP-controlled Legislature.

But at least one expert who studies congressional races says Democrats shouldn't get too giddy, even if it helps put the Orlando-area seat — now held by Republican Daniel Webster — back into play.

David Wasserman, who monitors House races for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, said there are several reasons why not much might change in a state where Republicans control 17 of the state's 27 congressional seats. read more »

Redistricting ruling could change Florida's political landscape

07/13/2014
TALLAHASSEE — Members of Congress, candidates and political observers are grappling with the fallout of a judge's Thursday ruling that two of the state's congressional districts were illegally drawn for partisan reasons.

Lawyers on Friday were preparing to ask Leon County Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis to move quickly to prescribe a remedy for the flawed map. Meanwhile, Democratic Congresswoman Corrine Brown blasted Lewis's decision, while a former congressman blamed the ruling after pulling the plug on a comeback attempt. read more »

Editorial: Victory for voters on districts

07/13/2014
A circuit judge's decision to invalidate Florida's congressional map is a victory for voters who demanded fairly drawn districts and a defeat for powerful legislators who still rigged the game to help their friends. Leon Circuit Judge Terry Lewis' order is a sweeping indictment of the secrecy and insider dealing that characterized the redrawing of the congressional districts. His decision is certain to be appealed, but the Florida Supreme Court should promptly affirm his decision and direct the Legislature to try again.

Voters could not have been clearer when they amended the state Constitution in
2010 to require that congressional and legislative districts be drawn without
regard to protecting incumbents or political parties. Yet Lewis heard more than
enough evidence to reasonably conclude lawmakers ignored those rules in 2012
and order that two congressional districts be redrawn, which would create a
ripple effect and require other districts to be adjusted. One of the invalid
districts has been held for more than two decades by U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, an African-American Democrat from Jacksonville. The other is an Orlando area district held by U.S. Rep. Dan Webster, a white Republican. read more »

Editorial: Judge's ruling confirms redistricting sham

07/12/2014
Voters who supported the "Fair Districts" amendments in 2010 should feel violated by the Florida legislators who presided over a redistricting process that appears to have cast aside the will of the people to further selfish political interests.

In fact, every Floridian, regardless of whether they supported those amendments, should be alarmed when lawmakers blithely ignore the rule of law to maintain political power.

Voters in 2010 passed two constitutional amendments requiring legislators to draw the boundaries of the state's political districts fairly and without benefit to an incumbent or political party. The amendments passed with 63 percent of the vote. read more »