Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Redistricting Fight Refereed

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Redistricting Fight Refereed

Article excerpt

ATLANTA -- A three-judge federal panel has ordered all sides in

the long-running battle over state legislative districts to work

out their differences with a mediator next week.

The order, filed in U.S. District Court in Augusta late

Thursday, sets a Monday negotiating session in Atlanta involving

the state, plaintiffs attorney A. Lee Parks, the U.S. Justice

Department and the American Civil Liberties Union.

The move is aimed at averting a lengthy court battle over about

20 contested legislative districts.

"This case is at an extremely critical juncture in that the

legislative session is rapidly concluding," the order states.

"It would be wise to move the parties toward resolution of the

issue, lest their differences become insurmountable.

"This court has always been reluctant to encroach upon the

state of Georgia's province of drawing its own legislative

districts . . . though it remains a possibility for the future,

the court does not expect to become involved in this process,"

the order stated.

The panel -- U.S. District Judges Dudley Bowen and Julie Carnes

and U.S. Circuit Judge Ed Carnes -- went on to say, "All parties

involved are ordered to urgently and persistently pursue the

resolution of the matter; this is a first priority of this

court."

The judges are eager to resolve the case before legislators end

their 1997 session to give the General Assembly a chance to

ratify any settlement.

Eleven business days are left in the session, which will be in

recess Monday.

Parks, federal officials and ACLU lawyers are contesting

legislative districts redrawn by state lawmakers during a

special session in 1995. That session was held to correct flaws

Parks saw in House and Senate political maps drawn by lawmakers

in 1992.

The Atlanta lawyer contends many black-majority districts are

unconstitutional because they are racially gerrymandered. …

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