The state and Legislature won’t be off the hook for costs incurred for defending political maps in Wisconsin’s high-profile gerrymandering cases.
A panel of three federal judges Thursday denied a request the Republican-controlled Assembly and state elections officials made in July to recover costs associated with cases brought by Democratic voters arguing the state’s political maps were an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander.
Republicans drew the maps in 2011 after the last U.S. Census, when they controlled the Legislature and governor’s mansion.
U.S. Appeals Court Judge Kenneth Ripple and U.S. District Court Judges William Griesbach and James Peterson also denied a request from the Assembly to recover attorney’s fees associated with the gerrymandering battle, which came to a close in June when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled claims of partisan gerrymandering are beyond the reach of federal courts.
The U.S. Supreme Court decision represented the end of the road for those seeking to limit the practice of severe partisan gerrymandering through the court system.
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The major gerrymandering case affecting Wisconsin, Gill vs. Whitford, was remanded to U.S. District Court last summer for lack of standing. It was set for a trial in July before the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on similar cases from North Carolina and Maryland. Shortly after the ruling, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin dismissed the case.
Another challenge brought by Democratic voters resulted in changes to legislative maps in the Milwaukee area.
Now, both sides of the redistricting battle are left to pay their own costs and fees associated with Wisconsin’s gerrymandering cases.
“We conclude that justice is best served by leaving each to bear their own costs,” the judges wrote.
According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, drawing the state’s political maps and defending them have cost state taxpayers more than $3.7 million since 2011.
The panel of judges denied the request for cost recovery in part because they said the plaintiffs in the redistricting cases brought their lawsuits in good faith.