Legislature cancels handful of redistricting depositions

Matt Dixon | Politico | 07/17/2015

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Attorneys representing the Florida Legislature in a lawsuit over state Senate maps have canceled a scheduled deposition for an official at the heart of the 2012 redistricting fight, and attempts to find deposition dates for other top Democrats have been halted.

The legal pause comes a week after the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the state’s congressional maps were drawn to favor Republicans, and that the partisan engineering violated anti-gerrymandering amendments in the state constitution. Those provisions were passed by voters in 2010, and are commonly referred to as the Fair District amendments.

With that legal challenge wrapping up, a separate lawsuit challenging the state Senate maps on similar grounds is now beginning to take shape.

Early depositions were taken in May, and dates for pre-trial hearings, including one Friday afternoon, are being set.

But the progress appears to be slowing, as attorneys for the Legislature cancel some depositions they had originally sought.

Among those that have been canceled was a scheduled deposition for Ellen Freidin, who served as campaign chair of Fair Districts Florida, the group that raised $9 million to pass the anti-gerrymandering provisions.

Attorneys also canceled the deposition of Ryan Terrell, who has worked in various capacities with Democratic candidates and with the state party. During the redistricting process, he was a regular at committee meetings and submitted maps he created as part of the process.

Katie Betta, a spokesman for Senate President Andy Gardiner of Orlando, said “scheduling difficulties” when asked about the cancellations, but would not elaborate.

Attorneys for the Legislature have also halted their attempts to schedule depositions for a handful of top Democrats, including Florida Democratic Party executive director Scott Arceneaux; Ron Saunders, who served as House Minority leader during redistricting; and Nan Rich, who was the top Senate Democrat during that period.

Mark Herron, an attorney representing the three, said they were working to secure deposition dates, but when he tried to “confirm those dates” with attorneys from Gray Robinson, the firm that represents the Legislature, he was told they were being postponed and given no concrete timeframe.

Depositions have also been postponed for Chris Clark, a former top aide to Senate President Don Gaetz of Niceville, and John Guthrie, who served as staff director for the Senate redistricting committee.

Those depositions were scheduled for Thursday, but Betta says they will now be held next week.


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