Battle over Redistricting Back in State's High Court; Groups Seeks Jury Trial in Dispute; GOP Attorneys Say It Will Cause Wave of Litigation

Article excerpt

Byline: Matt Dixon

TALLAHASSEE | The Florida Supreme Court heard arguments Thursday that a lawsuit alleging politics helped shape the state's redistricting process should get its day in court.

An attorney representing House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz argue the exclusive right to sign-off on maps lies with the Supreme Court, which has already validated the new political lines.

Adam Schachter, an attorney representing groups such as the League of Women Voters of Florida and Common Cause, argued that new emails unearthed as part of the lawsuit show Republican political consultants and elected officials were actively involved during the 2012 redistricting process. That new evidence, he argued, necessitates a jury trial.

"If it does not happen in a circuit court, that evidence will never be heard by anyone," Schachter said.

He made no mention of emails showing Democratic political pros drew maps used by that party, which never passed. The new amendments, in part, were intended to take politics out of the redistricting process.

Violation of that provision is at the heart of the lawsuit.

Raoul Cantero, who represents the Legislature, said the Supreme Court has the exclusive authority to settle redistricting disputes. A ruling that a trial court can hear the case, he argued, could result in an endless stream of lawsuits.

"It opens up the possibility for serial redistricting litigation," Cantero said. …