Judge schedules trial on congressional redistrictingby John Kennedy | March 16th, 2012
A Leon County Circuit judge said Friday that he is ready to begin trial April 16 on whether the Legislature’s plan for redrawing state congressional districts is unconstitutional.
Judge Terry Lewis did not directly dismiss the state Senate’s motion to delay action on legal challenges until after the November elections. But asked following the half-hour hearing whether prospects for a post-election delay was unlikely, Senate attorney Peter Dunbar said, it “might be.”
“At a time that you could appropriately get there, we would like to have certainty in our election process,” Dunbar said. “This is not about the House, or the Senate or the Department of State. This is about 18 million Floridians and the certainty for them to participate in the electoral process.”
The Florida Democratic Party, League of Women Voters, La Raza and Common Cause-Florida filed their lawsuit in February, immediately after the Legislature approved new congressional boundaries. The state Supreme Court has since upheld the Legislature’s plan for redrawing House seats, but rejected the Senate’s remapping as designed to protect incumbents and preserve Republican control of that chamber.
A 15-day special session to redraw the Senate plan began Wednesday.
In Friday’s half-hour hearing, Lewis acknowledged that it would prove difficult to complete a trial quickly, without interfering with candidate qualifying scheduled for June 4-8. But Lewis said he would likely borrow computer software used by the Supreme Court in developing its ruling, while also seeking to narrow the range of issues in dispute between the sides.
Lewis said working toward a speedy resolution was necessary.
“If I were running for office right now, I’d be concerned,” Lewis said.