Attorneys file documents in congressional redistricting case - Business, Government Legal News from throughout WV

Attorneys file documents in congressional redistricting case

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Attorneys are preparing final briefs in a federal congressional redistricting suit currently before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The nation's highest court granted state officials' emergency motion to stay in a Jan. 20 decision meaning lawmakers could conduct the upcoming election under the current congressional redistricting plan.

A federal three-judge panel deemed the redistricting plan unconstitutional in a ruling earlier this year.

Anthony Majestro, an attorney representing House of Delegates Speaker Rick Thompson said other state officials filed its brief with the U.S. Supreme Court March 27.

Majestro said he expects the court to decide what to do with the case sometime this spring. If justices decide to hear the case, they would hear it before this fall. 

"They can do three things," Majestro said. "They can affirm it, reverse it or set before full arguments."

The brief, filed March 27, states the Legislature has certain goals for redistricting, ranging from steering clear of incumbents competing against one another, keeping counties intact and maintaining the core of the district.

"Prior federal three-judge panels have recognized these aims and have previously approved West Virginia's congressional districts in a form that is essentially identical to the districts now found to be unconstitutional by the majority of the panel."

The brief states the Legislature made "one small change" by moving a Mason County from the 2nd Congressional District to the 3rd to adjust for population changes.

"In doing so, the Legislature rejected a number of alternate proposals – including some with smaller inter-district variances," the brief stated. "The alternatives either split counties, created contests between incumbent representatives, and/or destroyed the character of the existing districts."

The brief noted one of the reasons judges found the bill unconstitutional was because it had a population variance of 0.7886 percent between the largest and smallest districts.

"The majority opinion struck down Senate Bill 1008 in spite of the fact that Karcher characterized a nearly identical 0.7888 percent population variance in West Virginia as ‘minor,'" the brief stated.

One of the main issues the brief presented was where to "draw the line" between a federal court and legislators' roles in redistricting.

"The majority opinion and cases like it draw the line in a manner that replaces the political judgment of elected officials with a formalistic rigor inconsistent with legislative deference and respect for the exercise of political judgment," the brief stated. 

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