Two sides trying to tell a federal court panel how to fix a state election map that the court called an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander took their last shots Thursday, with continued disagreements about whether to wait until the U.S. Supreme Court acts before ordering a new redistricting plan.
In briefs filed Thursday, lawyers for a group of Wisconsin Democratic voters again said the process to redraw state Assembly district maps should begin immediately, while lawyers from the state Attorney General’s Office said there’s no hurry to act before the Supreme Court decides its inevitable appeal.
The three-judge panel, consisting of two U.S. district court judges and an appeals court judge, ruled 2-1 in November that the 2011 Assembly redistricting plan, drawn up in secret by Republicans, was an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander that favors the GOP. The court ordered the two sides to tell it what to do next.
Last month, both sides submitted briefs in which lawyers for the Democrats argued for immediate action so that new boundaries would be in place before the 2018 election. The state’s brief, submitted by Attorney General Brad Schimel and Assistant Attorney General Brian Keenan, argued for waiting until after a Supreme Court decision.
In briefs submitted Thursday, the two sides picked apart one another’s earlier submissions. Lawyers for the Democratic voters, headed this time by Nicholas Stephanopoulos, said that by waiting, “defendants argue that this streak of three straight unlawful elections should be extended to four.”
Waiting until the Supreme Court decides the state’s appeal, he wrote, would likely mean that the remedy phase of the case wouldn’t begin until summer 2018, too late for the 2018 election. The court should also immediately bar the use of the 2011 map in any election, he wrote.
The state’s brief counters that the Supreme Court may well decide the case before then, and as long as a plan is in place before June 1, 2018, the deadline for submitting paperwork to get on the ballot for the fall election, nobody will be harmed by the delay.
“The novelty of this court’s decision makes it extremely likely that the Supreme Court will either reverse entirely or provide substantial additional guidance, which guidance would then shape whatever new plan the legislature would adopt,” Schimel and Keenan wrote. “It would thus be a needless waste of judicial and state resources to require the creation of a new plan before the Supreme Court acts.”
The Campaign Legal Center, which is representing the Democratic voters in the lawsuit, also announced Thursday that Paul M. Smith, who has argued 19 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, is joining the legal team in the Wisconsin redistricting case.
Among the cases Smith has argued is the 2003 landmark gay rights case, Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down Texas’ sodomy law and made sexual activity between same-sex couples legal throughout the U.S.