Redistricting Challenges Headed to the Supreme Court?
A Leon County judge Monday denied a motion by state officials to dismiss a lawsuit by two Florida members of Congress seeking to throw out a pair of constitutional amendments intended to guide how the state draws new political boundaries in 2012.
Circuit Judge Jackie Fulford denied the motion by Secretary of State Dawn Roberts and FairDistricts Florida, the political committee which gathered enough petition signatures to get the redistricting measures on the November ballot.
The ruling apparently sets the case for a July 26 hearing before Fulford. But attorneys for Roberts and former Gov. Bob Graham, who has intervened as a defendant in the case, said Monday they will now ask the Florida Supreme Court to hear the challenge.
“The case either should be dismissed or it belongs before the Supreme Court, which already has reviewed the matter once,” said Ron Meyer, Graham’s attorney. “It shouldn’t be relitigated.”
U.S. Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Miami Republican, and Corrine Brown, a Jacksonville Democrat, are looking to overturn the FairDistricts amendments. They say the ballot summaries are misleading, although the Supreme Court issued an advisory opinion in January 2009 upholding them.
Fulford did grant a motion dismissing FairDistricts Florida from the case. That leaves Roberts and Graham, who is representing petition signers, as the lone defendants in the case.
Brown and Diaz-Balart have been joined by the state House and Senate in seeking to block Amendments 5 and 6 from appearing on the ballot. Legislative leaders oppose the measures, which are aimed at blocking lawmakers from favoring incumbents or political parties when drawing legislative or congressional district lines.
The Legislature suffered a setback last week when Leon Circuit Judge James Shelfer stripped from the ballot Amendment 7 which had been put on the ballot by the Legislature. Lawmakers said that measure was designed to “clarify” the meaning of Amendments 5 and 6, although the NAACP and Florida League of Women Voters, which challenged Amendment 7, said it was chiefly designed to confuse voters.
Shelfer’s ruling siding with the opponents is expected to be appealed. But lawyers on both sides said the fate of all three amendments likely will be settled by the Florida Supreme Court.