THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE - A coalition of voting-rights groups trying to get lawmakers to testify about the 2012 redistricting process asked a skeptical Supreme Court on Monday to rule that legislators should not be shielded from speaking in court.

Those challenging new district maps under the anti-gerrymandering "Fair Districts" constitutional amendments are appealing a 1st District Court of Appeal ruling that prevents the legislators who drew the districts from having to testify about "objective" facts about the redistricting process.

A lower court had initially ruled that the lawmakers should have to testify, though the trial court didn't order lawmakers to testify about "subjective" issues, like why they made certain decisions.

Attorneys for the League of Women Voters and others opposed to the new maps, which were put in place before the 2012 election, told the justices that lawmakers should be required to fully explain their process, including testifying about "subjective" matters.

But even justices who have been sympathetic to the opponents in the past seemed unwilling to go that far.

"I can see real problems down the road if we allow just an unlimited deposition of a legislator or the legislative aide," said Justice Peggy Quince.

But Talbot "Sandy" D'Alemberte, a former Democratic lawmaker and former dean of the Florida State University College of Law, said that would prevent opponents of the maps from finding out why lawmakers drew the lines they way they did — a critical part of the Fair Districts amendments' ban on lawmakers drawing lines that are intended to favor political parties or incumbents.

Raoul Cantero, arguing for the Legislature, countered that legislative privilege from being forced to offer testimony has been upheld by courts across the nation. He told reporters outside the court that it would be "unprecedented" for the justices to uphold the trial court's order or allow wider testimony to be taken.

"If the court would order depositions in this case, they'd be the first court in the country to do so," he said.

Some justices, though, seemed to be willing to make an exception in some cases, in part because of the Fair Districts standards.

"We're dealing with a once in every ten years process and a unique constitutional provision," noted Justice Barbara Pariente.

The Legislature also argues that it would have a chilling effect on the legislative process if lawmakers knew they could be hauled into court to testify under oath about their actions. That idea drew a sharp retort from D'Alemberte.

"The constitutional amendments adopted in 2010 were intended to chill the Legislature," he said.

Depositions from outside consultants already filed in redistricting cases suggest that those consultants kept tabs on the process and perhaps tried to influence it.

"It's equally clear, though, that those communications continued inside the Legislature as well," said Adam Schachter, an attorney for the groups seeking lawmaker testimony.

The Supreme Court has no definitive timeline for ruling on the question.

Legal battle over state Senate districts coming to an end

TALLAHASSEE - A contentious battle over Florida state senate districts is coming to an end. read more »

Senate won't appeal redistricting ruling

Clearing the way for elections later this year with a map that could boost Democrats' numbers in the Senate, Republican leaders decided Wednesday not to appeal a Leon County judge's ruling setting districts for the chamber's 40 seats. read more »

Florida Senate won't appeal ruling on new districts

TALLAHASSEE — Senate leaders said Wednesday that they will not appeal last month's court ruling that sided with a voters' coalition in setting new district boundaries. read more »

Florida Legislature won't appeal redistricting ruling

TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Legislature is giving up the fight and will not contest a court ruling that redraws all of the state's 40 state senate districts for the 2016 election cycle. read more »

Editorial: Republicans should accept redistricting defeat and drop talk of appeals

For a brief moment last week it appeared the Florida Legislature had come to its senses and was willing to accept a judge's ruling on the boundaries for new state Senate districts. read more »

Renumbering state Senate districts triggers political scramble

TALLAHASSEE — It may sound like a simple process, but the Florida Senate's random renumbering of all its districts statewide Tuesday touched off a series of complicated twists that one key lawmaker said only adds more chaos to a continuing redistricting saga. read more »