Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

WI Redistricting: District Court says Maps Can be Redrawn, but Rs refuse; Trial to Resume Thursday

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Folks, this isn’t much of a surprise; the United States District Court (Eastern Division of Wisconsin) today rejected the Wisconsin Legislature’s argument that they cannot re-draw the maps based on a 1954 state Supreme Court decision.  The Legislature is dominated in both the Assembly and in the Senate by Republicans, so in essence it is the Wisconsin Republican Party that has refused as all along, as the Democratic Party and the few Independents in the state government at any level all seem to want to re-draw the maps.  The Court gave the Legislature (the Rs) 5.5 hours today to reconsider their viewpoint; the Rs, predictably, have refused to re-draw the maps.

The only reason this is significant is that now the Republican Party’s refusal is on the record.  Otherwise, nothing has changed from what I reported late last night; the Rs want the maps to stand, the Ds want the maps to be re-drawn, and the District Court seems mystified by the Rs recalcitrant behavior.

Here’s the link to today’s Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel story:

http://www.jsonline.com/news/wisconsin/court-rules-lawmakers-can-make-changes-to-maps-bu49vtc-140013193.html

Here’s a relevant quote:

Because lawmakers and the groups suing them could not agree on a settlement, the case will go to trial at 8:30 a.m. Thursday on an accelerated schedule. The trial was expected to last three or four days, but the presiding judge said he wanted to complete testimony by Friday, even if it meant going into the evening.

On Tuesday, an attorney for the state, Dan Kelly, told the judges that lawmakers were open to making changes to the maps, but he argued that a 1954 state Supreme Court decision prevented lawmakers from making changes to the maps after they had approved them. The panel of three federal judges – which includes two judges appointed by Republican presidents – rejected that argument Wednesday, and told the attorneys to tell them that afternoon whether the Legislature would spend the coming weeks drawing new maps.

Republican leaders declined to do that, sending the case to trial.

The only real news here is that the Court will expect this trial to wrap up on Friday evening even if they have to stay quite late in order to get everything done.  This means the Court will not allow the Legislature to obfuscate or delay any longer; these maps must be fixed by April 15, 2012, or things are going to get even messier than they already are.

As I said before, the only thing certain in all this is that the Rs don’t want to do anything.  They seem willing to let this go to the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) because they believe they will prevail there due to the 5-4 split between conservatives/Republicans and liberals/Democrats.  But this particular panel is made up of two conservatives/Republicans and one Democrat and they don’t agree with the Legislature; how can the Legislature be sure they’ll get more than two votes at the SCOTUS level?  (Methinks they can’t, especially if the Supreme Court justices dislike the way the Legislature has behaved toward other judges the way I think is likely.  It’s possible that SCOTUS may rule 9-0 against the Wisconsin Rs, even though they don’t seem to think that’s likely.)

Oh, one other tidbit in this article:

The case comes to trial just as Gov. Scott Walker nearly doubles the amount in taxpayer money that can be spent on outside attorneys assisting the Department of Justice. Documents released Wednesday show the cap on the contract with Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren is being raised from $500,000 to $925,000.

Those costs are in addition to the $400,000 that Republican lawmakers have committed to two law firms that helped them draw the maps.

So, did you get that?  Walker is going to allow the Rs to get more state money to defend these terrible maps.  Which is why his recall cannot come soon enough.

That’s it for today; trial will resume Thursday, and I’d expect we’ll get a decision on this matter by the middle of next week due to the time-sensitive nature of this problem.  Stay tuned.

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Written by Barb Caffrey

February 22, 2012 at 6:15 pm

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