9 Investigates: High cost of Florida redistricting lawsuits

WFTV 9 | WFTV 9 | 11/10/2014

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. —The Florida Legislature has spent more than $6 million on outside legal counsel fighting congressional redistricting.

According to records obtained from the Florida House of Representatives and Florida Senate, the two chambers have spent a combined $6,222,655.93 in its lawsuits with groups including the League of Women Voters.

"The legislature subverted the will of the people during the drawing process,” says Deidre McNabb, president of Florida's League of Women Voters. “They are also spending millions of our taxpayer dollars to fight the will of the voters, it's disgraceful and quite frankly it's unacceptable."

State records indicate New York-based law firm White & Case LLP, one of three firms with records indicating it work on redistricting lawsuits for the state, billed the Florida Senate $3.1 million for its services including: $26,491 for hotels, $44,900 for air travel and $80,747 for research.

On the House of Representatives side, Orlando based law firm Gray Robinson billed the state $2,232,070 for its services including one bill on June 12 for $62,765.28 for expert witnesses.

“This is an incredible indignity," says McNabb. "They should not be spending taxpayer money to fight the will of the voters."

In 2010 Florida voters adopted the Fair Districts Amendment, rewriting the Florida Constitution to require lawmakers to draw congressional districts without a partisan advantage. Earlier this year Leon County Judge Terry Lewis found the plan adopted by the legislature to be invalid. Following his ruling, Lewis ordered the legislature to redraw two congressional districts.

As part of the case between the state and the League of Women Voters it was revealed that lawmakers had a series of secret emails which showed portions of the maps had been drawn to favor one political party of another, a violation of the Florida Constitution.

The legal fight, which has already cost taxpayers more than $6 million, will soon cost the state even more. Two key issues including the newly drawn congressional maps as well as some of the secret documents used in the map drawing process are now headed to the Florida Supreme Court.

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