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Friday, May 09, 2014

Ind. Decision - More on: Supreme Court, 5-0, upholds Marion County redistricting

Updating this May 7th ILB post, re the Supreme Court's 10-page, 5-0, per curiam opinion in Mayor Gregory Ballard v. Maggie Lewis, John Barth, and Vernon Brown, the ILB has received from the amicus in the case an OCRed copy of the opinion and has posted it here to the ILB site. As of this writing the Court's online version remains a locked, scanned version, unlike all its other posted opinions.

In Mayor Gregory Ballard v. Maggie Lewis, John Barth, and Vernon Brown, a 10-page, 5-0, per curiam opinion, the Court writes:

The Redistricting Statute for Marion County assigns the task of redrawing the County's legislative districts to the judiciary if the County's legislative and executive branches become deadlocked over required redistricting. Peterson v. Borst, 786 N.E.2d 668, 672, 676 (Ind.), reh 'g denied, 789 N.E.2d 460 (Ind; 2003). In the case before us the Indianapolis Marion County CityCounty Council and Mayor Gregory Ballard agreed on an ordinance dividing the County into legislative districts, and the legal question is whether that was done too early to satisfy the Redistricting Statute. A divided panel of trial court judges answered that question "yes" and then drew new legislative districts. We hold that because this case does not present a redistricting impasse that requires judicial intervention, Mayor Ballard is entitled to summary judgment. Accordingly, we reverse. * * *

Eleven years ago, this Court issued a redistricting plan in Peterson, but judicial resolution was required by the facts of that case. Democratic Mayor Peterson vetoed a redistricting ordinance known as the "Borst Plan," which was supported by the Council's Republican majority. The veto left the County's legislative and executive branches of government at loggerheads. No redistricting ordinance was enacted in 2002 ahead of the May 2003 primary election, and districtdrawing by the judiciary was required to fill the void. See 786 N.E.2d at 670-71. Even so, we explained that we acted with "great reluctance" in "resolving th[ e] politically-charged redistricting issue." Id. at 678. We noted the need for courts to act "circumspectly" in such cases. ld. at 672 (quoting Connor v. Finch, 431 U.S. 407, 414-15 (1977)). And we stressed that although we were providing a redistricting plan, the Council remained free, subject to a mayoral veto, to adopt a different plan if it could be done in time for the upcoming primary election. Id. at 678. Collectively, these passages reflect a preference for judicial restraint and deference to the political process.

In the present case, Ordinance 61 was approved by the Council and by Mayor Ballard, and it was formally adopted in 2012. See I.C. § 36-3-4-14(a). The trial court judges were divided on the question of whether Ordinance 61 constituted mandatory redistricting during 2012, but all five agreed that Ordinance 61 was lawfully enacted, having been signed into law by the Mayor on January 1, 2012. (App. at 213, 217-18.) While recognizing Ordinance 61 as mandatory redistricting is just one reasonable construction of the Redistricting Statute, we adopt it because it allows legislatively-adopted districts to remain in place and avoids the need for districts drawn by a court. This reasonable construction of the statute is consonant with judicial restraint and leaves redistricting in the hands of the two branches of local government responsible for that task in the first instance.

Finally, we note the disputed legal issue in this case has been one of timing, namely, whether the Council acted too early. The complaint does not allege that Ordinance 61 was substantively defective. That is, the complaint does not allege that Ordinance 61 failed to incorporate data from the 2010 census, nor does it allege that Ordinance 61 's districts are not compact or that they cross precinct boundary lines or fail to contain, as nearly as is possible, equal population. See I.C. § 36-3-4-3(a). Today's decision upholds a redistricting ordinance whose substance is unchallenged in the complaint.

Conclusion. We reverse the trial court's order of final judgment and remand this cause to the trial court with instructions to grant summary judgment in favor of Mayor Ballard. We also reverse any order requiring Mayor Ballard to pay part of the cost of the master.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on May 9, 2014 11:23 AM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions