Federal judge could set up conflict with Wisconsin Supreme Court decision

The Republican-controlled state Assembly is joining Wisconsin's ongoing gerrymandering case to defend itself in case the state's political maps are deemed unconstitutional. 

A panel of federal judges has approved the state Assembly’s request to join Wisconsin’s gerrymandering case partially on the grounds of Wisconsin’s post-election landscape.

The GOP-controlled Assembly earlier this fall had requested to join the case with the reasoning a new attorney general could fail to adequately defend the state’s political maps if challenged in court.

Federal judges have now taken that argument seriously with Democrat Josh Kaul poised to win by a narrow margin over Republican incumbent Brad Schimel, whose Justice Department has been defending the state in the ongoing suit.

“The recent election in Wisconsin for Attorney General introduces potential uncertainty into defendants’ future litigation strategy,” the judges wrote. “Permitting the Assembly to intervene now would help minimize any disruption or delay in the proceedings in the event that the new Wisconsin Attorney General takes a different approach to the case.”

In October, attorneys for the Assembly slammed Kaul’s support for Iowa-style nonpartisan redistricting and emphasized the importance of the legislative body’s ability to defend itself if a court finds the state’s political maps unconstitutionally gerrymandered.

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Kaul said on the campaign trail he would defend the state’s maps.

A trial in the case is set to begin April 23. A decision could then be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Plaintiffs in the case are 40 Democratic voters across several state Assembly districts. Twenty-eight of them were added to the case, Gill v. Whitford, after the U.S. Supreme Court in June remanded the case back to U.S. District Court after justices found the plaintiffs lacked standing.

Judges in October also permitted a case brought by the Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee against the state to be joined with Gill, at least temporarily.

The plaintiffs’ legal team had argued before the Supreme Court the votes of those Democrats carried less weight because they lived in severely gerrymandered districts.

Capital W: Plug in to Wisconsin politics

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