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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

State doesn't have to pay legal fees for botched congressional map



The League of Women Voters was successful in suing the state and forcing a redrawing of the state's congressional districts, but they will have to bear their own costs for attorney fees, the Florida Supreme Court ruled on Thursday.

In a 4-3 decision, the court denied the League of Women Voters of Florida's request to be compensated for years of attorney fees in their effort to uncover evidence that the Florida Legislature had violated the state Constitution barring them from drawing Congressional districts in a way to benefit incumbents or political parties.

Attorneys for the League of Women Voters of Florida argued that for years, the Legislature engaged in a "war of attrition" and employed a "scorched-earth policy" that erected costly barriers for them as the sought to uncover critical evidence that ultimately led the Florida Supreme Court last year to rule that the Legislature's redistricting was "tainted" by illegal partisan intent."

The League, which did not identify a specific dollar amount in court documents, argued that not awarding the fees would embolden recalcitrant legislatures to try to run up costs on their opponents to avoid constitutional violations from being uncovered like happened in their case.

But justices Jorge Labarga, R. Fred Lewis, Charles T. Canady and Ricky Polston ruled against them. Justices Barbara J. Pariente, Peggy A. Quince, and James E.C. Perry ruled in favor of the League of Women Voters request.

In the dissenting opinion written by Pariente, she it could not be overstated how important the efforts of the plaintiffs were in forcing the Legislature to comply with the state constitution.

"If the Appellants (the League of Women Voters) had not brought their cause of action, the Legislature's unconstitutional, gerrymandered redistricting plan would have remained in place, and this offense to Florida's Constitution and the basic foundation of our democracy would have gone unchallenged," Pariente said.

[Last modified: Thursday, March 31, 2016 1:55pm]


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