Trial court breaks silence on Florida redistricting schedule — orders Sept. 25 deadline

Bradenton Herald | Bradenton Herald | 07/17/2015

A Tallahassee judge broke the latest logjam over the future of the state's congressional maps Wednesday and ordered the Florida Legislature to finish its maps — and subsequent trial to defend it — by Sept. 25.

"The Court will do its best to accommodate everyone's schedule but clearly there is not much time to do all that is required,'' wrote Second Judicial Circuit Judge George Reynolds in a scheduling order released late Wednesday.

The order is the first sign of movement on the congressional redistricting maps since the Florida Supreme Court ruled on July 9 that the Legislature had violated the Fair District provisions of the constitution and drew maps with "unconstitutional intent to favor the Republican Party and incumbent lawmakers."

The court gave lawmakers 100 days — until Oct. 17 — to revise the map, have it reviewed by the trial court, and approved by the Florida Supreme Court.

Both House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and Senate President Andy Gardiner have refrained from any commentary on the ruling and have not indicated if, or when, they would call the Legislature into special session to complete the maps.

Reynolds gave the lawyers for the Legislature and the plaintiffs until Wednesday, July 22, to submit proposed schedules for how much time it will take for lawmakers to revise the new congressional maps in a special session, then allow both sides to respond to the maps, and conduct a trial.

Lawmakers have speculated that the presiding officers would wait until the scheduled committee weeks in September to do the work on the new maps, and then call for the special session to finalize them during the committee weeks in October. But Reynold's order will force them to accelerate that schedule, potentially requiring a special session in Tallahassee in August.

Reynolds also clarified that Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis, who presided over the trial last summer and first invalidated the maps, has been assigned to hear the case and all issues relating to it. He also scheduled a case management conference for Monday, July 27 in the Leon County Courthouse.

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