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Monday, March 04, 2013

Ind. Gov't. - Still more on: "3 Democrats file suit challenging redistricting plan approved by Mayor Ballard"

Updating this ILB entry from Feb. 27th, Jon Murray of the IndyStar reports on today's hearing re the "City-County Council Democrats’ legal challenge of a redistricting plan signed by Republican Mayor Greg Ballard." A few quotes:

During the brief hearing, Judge Heather Welch, who is presiding over the case, and her colleagues sorted through the housekeeping issues of setting deadlines for legal briefs, scheduling the June 17 hearing and deciding which issues the lawyers would argue, and when.

Democrats contend in their suit that new GOP-drawn boundary lines for the council’s 25 district-based seats — passed by the outgoing Republican council majority in 2011 — failed to satisfy a state law requiring the council to redraw boundaries in 2012. Ballard contends that the redistricting plan met the requirement because he signed it on Jan. 1, 2012; he later vetoed a competing redistricting plan passed late last year by the council’s new 16-13 Democratic majority.

The redistricting challenge echoes a legal case a decade ago that resulted in the Indiana Supreme Court drawing the boundaries that will be replaced by the new boundaries in the 2015 election.

Today, Welch, a Democrat, alluded to that case in vowing to avert the partisan strife that consumed Marion County’s judges in 2003. All 29 judges heard that case before deciding, along party lines, to adopt the then-Republican council majority’s plan, rejecting the one offered by then-Mayor Bart Peterson, a Democrat. The Supreme Court threw out the decision and drew a map from scratch.

Since then, the General Assembly has amended the law to require the random selection of a five-judge panel in Marion Superior Court for redistricting cases, rather than putting them before all of the court’s judges. * * *

The judges will convene the June 17 hearing in the City-County Building’s Public Assembly Room, which serves as the council chambers, as was done in the 2003 case. They can ask questions as each side gets 30 minutes to argue over the Democrats’ planned motion for summary judgment, which is a way of deciding legal issues more quickly, without the need for a trial, when each side agrees on the facts of a case.

Before the hearing, each side will submit written briefs setting out their arguments by May 1, with responses due in early June.

Indiana law allows the judges, potentially, to redraw the boundary lines. Any decision may be appealed directly to the Indiana Supreme Court, bypassing the Court of Appeals.

But the judges and the lawyers decided today that they will focus in the first round of arguments only on the legal question about timing that was raised by the Democrats — and then address the fallout if the judges decide to throw out the Republican-drawn maps.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on March 4, 2013 04:22 PM
Posted to Indiana Government