Florida Supreme Court hears arguments on redistricting

05/09/13 AP
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Florida Supreme Court justices are weighing whether to end a lengthy legal battle over new political districts.

Thursday lawyers for the Republican-led Legislature asked the high court to throw out a lawsuit that says legislators violated strict new standards when they drew up new districts for the state Senate. The maps were adopted last year.

Raoul Cantero, a former Supreme Court justice hired by the Senate, contends that the Supreme Court has already upheld the map once and that the process is now over.

We aired an exchange in which Cantero answers questions from Justice Fred Lewis and Chief Justice Ricky Polston.

Lewis: "Are you saying that if we decide today that the case can proceed forward that we are saying that each legislator can be interrogated in a deposition?"

Cantero: "No I'm not saying that. I am responding to justice Pariente's question..."

Lewis: "Because I see those as totally different issues."

Cantero: "I understand and they may be and, in fact, there's a case pending in the first DCA right now on the congressional side.

Lewis: "Well, when we start mixing those we become really muddled in what we are really talking about. I [understood] it as the jurisdiction of the trial court - the circuit court - to proceed with an action that's been filed there, claiming a constitutional violation. That's what we're dealing with, huh?"

Cantero: "Absolutely. That's what you're dealing with."

Polston: "Well that's where the direction of this litigation is going, isn't it? To be able to take discovery on intent, isn't that the direction that that is going?"

Cantero: "Yes, then they've requested that and the court has denied that pending an appeal in the companion congressional case on that very issue. But they actually set up people for deposition and those were later cancelled based on the events that are happening and the appeals that are going on, but that's exactly what they want to do. I'd like to respond also to the claim that these were different claims. You can look at the complaint which is in our appendix and you can look at your opinions. These are precisely the same claims and what their argument is that they are different because they are now going to present more evidence. But let me also clarify that it really doesn't matter, for purposes of prohibition, whether they are making the same claims or not. They could have filed claims based on the twenty-six districts that they did not contest in apportionment two. That still would be prohibited because it's still within the jurisdiction of this court to determine those issues and they should have brought those claims in apportionment one, really. This court said, you can't now bring new claims in apportionment two, you bring them all at once and that's the constitutional design. That's why the constitution provides for all adversary parties to be heard in that proceeding and that's why you issued and order saying 'All interested parties file your comments, file your brief, whoever wants to come.' That's what it's designed to do is this is once and for all. We are only going to do this once every ten years.We're not going to do this once every two years. We're not going to do this once every two years. We're not going to do this for the first redistricting after the census and then now go on and carry out your trial court actions."

Lawyers for the League of Women Voters and other groups suing over the maps contend the redistricting lawsuit should go forward.

They say initial evidence already shows evidence that legislators may have violated the 2010 Fair Districts amendment passed by voters.

Here are more of our stories on redistricting

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