Judge Doesn't Settle Bitter Dispute Over Florida's Redistricting Plan

LIZETTE ALVAREZ | The New York Times | 08/25/2015

MIAMI — A Leon County judge on Tuesday postponed a decision about Florida’s still incomplete congressional redistricting map after Republican legislative leaders failed to agree on how to redraw the boundaries.

During a hearing, Judge Terry P. Lewis of Florida’s Second Circuit Court said he did not have the authority to resolve the map dispute without the approval of the Florida Supreme Court, which ruled in July that the current redistricting map was unconstitutional.

The judge said he would send a request for guidance to the State Supreme Court on Wednesday.

While the Legislature has until mid-October to complete a congressional map, a draft of the redistricting proposal was supposed to be ready in time for Tuesday’s hearing. But a special legislative session ended Friday without a plan.

“I’m just going to ask them what they want me to do,” Judge Lewis said.

The State Supreme Court ordered the Republican-dominated Legislature to redraw eight congressional districts after ruling that the Legislature had drawn the boundaries to favor Republicans and incumbents, against the wishes of Florida voters.

The Legislature was sued in 2012 by a coalition led by the League of Women Voters, which accused Republicans of violating the State Constitution.

The State House and Senate each drew maps but could not compromise on a final plan, bringing the special legislative session to a bitter close Friday. The two chambers, which have clashed all year, cannot agree on how best to proceed next: The House wants Judge Lewis to mediate the dispute and perhaps draw a map; the Senate has proposed another special session and reaching a solution with the House.

“We could still get something done in the next seven to 10 days,” said Raoul G. Cantero, a lawyer for the Senate.

David King, a lawyer for the coalition that sued, said in court that there was no resolution in sight.

“It seems apparent the Legislature is at loggerheads,” he said.

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