Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Judicial Panel Finds Indianapolis Council Republicans' Lame Duck Redisricting Effort Fails to Satisfy Indiana Law

The Indianapolis Star reports that a judicial panel of five Marion County judges, voting along partisan lines, has struck down the City-County Council redistricting maps drawn by Republican political operative David Brooks.  The maps were passed during the lame duck council legislature after Republicans lost their majority in the 2011 elections.   Brooks' contract to draw the districts and to reprecinct cost taxpayers nearly a quarter million dollars.

Judge James Osborn

The legal issue in the case is a simple one.  Indiana law says that redistricting of the council districts must be done by the council during the second year after the census, i.e. 2012.  The problem is when January 1, 2012 hit the Republicans would no longer have a majority. So the GOP majority on the council did something too clever by half - they passed it in the waning hours of 2011 and had the Republican Mayor Greg Ballard sign it on January 1, 2012.

It is a shame the judgment in the case came down to a straight partisan split -  three Democratic judges, James Osborn (who wrote the opinion), Heather Welch, and Tom Carroll voting to strike the plan down and the Republican judges Cynthia Ayers and Robert Altice voting to uphold it.  The fact that it was a partisan vote is unfortunately a byproduct of slating - a sitting Marion County judge can hardly go against his party and expect to be reslated by the county chairman. If a judge is not reslated, he or she has little chance of winning in the primary.

In this case, the Democrats clearly have the winning legal argument.  It is a shame that the majority didn't get a vote from at least one of the Republican judges. While I find that disappointing, I totally understand the tremendous political pressure those judges are under.  That's why Marion County judicial slating needs to be ended, or at the very least the $25,000 or so each judge pays to the county needs to be stopped.  Our judges need to be free to vote according to the law without fear of political pressure.


Veracity said...

A big thank you to attorneys Bill Groth and Geof Lohman for their hard work to get us new districts drawn without politics.

Anonymous said...

It may well be that the Sup. Ct. needs to become the permanent creator of all districts, as doing it, sans politics, is likely impossible.