Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Florida Supreme Court: Lawsuit opposing Senate redistricting plan can proceed

TALLAHASSEE — Florida's Supreme Court handed a legal setback to the Legislature Thursday by giving a green light to a trial that challenges the redrawing of Senate districts.

The challenge, if successful, could greatly shake up the next round of Senate elections in 2014.

Lawmakers tried to thwart the challenge from the League of Women voters and other groups, who say Senate Republicans redrew districts for partisan advantage in violation of voter-approved "fair districts" amendments to the Constitution.

Lawmakers argued that only the Supreme Court had the power to review legislative redistricting maps, in a narrow 30-day window last year.

But in a 5-2 ruling, the court said that state law and its own precedents mean the case must proceed in a circuit court in Tallahassee.

Writing for the majority, Justice Barbara Pariente said last year's brief and compressed "facial" review of maps was not intended to be the last word on the issue as it held in previous redistricting challenges in 1972, 1982 and 1992.

"Our precedent remains clear that subsequent challenges based on factual evidence not considered or available in this court's initial 30-day review may be brought and argued in a court of competent jurisdiction," Pariente wrote. "These are the exact types of claims that must be subject to a fact-finder's scrutiny."

Chief Justice Ricky Polston and Justice Charles Canady dissented.

Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, who chaired the Senate Reapportionment Committee that drew the maps, said he was disappointed in the ruling and stands by the maps, which he said are "compliant with Florida's Constitution (and) will ultimately be affirmed."

Praising the ruling, the League of Women Voters said: "When districts are manipulated, voters are disenfranchised."

The ruling ensures that the costs to taxpayers to defend the 2012 redistricting maps will mount, as noted by Senate lawyer Raoul Cantero, a former Supreme Court justice, who predicted "perhaps endless rounds of litigation."

The Supreme Court last year approved the redrawing of all 120 House districts, but found the new Senate map was "rife with indicators of improper intent" and violated standards that bar favoritism toward incumbents or parties, even in the way district numbers were assigned.

A redrawn Senate map won court approval, and senators were assigned district numbers in a random lottery-style drawing.

Democrats picked up two Senate seats in the 2012 elections and Republicans now hold 26 of 40 seats. But of 20 Senate seats up for grabs next year, 16 are held by Republicans and four by Democrats.

Contact Steve Bousquet at bousquet@tampabay.com or (850) 224-7263.

Florida Supreme Court: Lawsuit opposing Senate redistricting plan can proceed 07/11/13 [Last modified: Thursday, July 11, 2013 8:06pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. For some, Memorial Day comes around more than just once a year

    Military

    ST. PETERSBURG — It is shortly before nine on a Friday morning, and the heat is already approaching unbearable levels at Bay Pines National Cemetery.

    Iles carefully digs up the St. Augustine grass so that it will continue to grow when it is placed back on the gravesite. He tries not to disturb the root base.
  2. State budget uncertainty has school districts 'very concerned'

    K12

    While waiting for Gov. Rick Scott to approve or veto the Legislature's education budget, the people in charge of school district checkbooks are trying hard to find a bottom line.

    It has not been easy.

    The unsettled nature of Florida’s education budget has left school districts with questions about how they will make ends meet next year. [iStockphoto.com]
  3. Ernest Hooper: Removing Confederate symbols doesn't eliminate persistent mindset

    Human Interest

    The debate has begun about removing a Confederate statue from outside the Hillsborough County Courthouse, and its removal is long overdue.

    Robert E. Lee Elementary, 305 E. Columbus Drive in Tampa, originally opened its doors in the early 1910s as the Michigan Avenue Grammar School. [Times file]
  4. What you need to know for Monday, May 29

    News

    Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what you need to know today.

    In the weeks before Memorial Day, cemetery caretaker Gary Iles and the staff at Bay Pines National Cemetery are busy preparing the sprawling property for the annual ceremony honoring the fallen. Iles, an Army veteran who started out as a volunteer at Bay Pines, says working at the cemetery is a way for him to continue serving those who died for their country. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  5. Review / photos: Sunset Music Festival wraps up with Above and Beyond, more at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa

    Blogs

    The first numbers trickled in on Sunday, and they didn't look great.

    Louis the Child performed at the Sunset Music Festival at Raymond James Stadium on May 28, 2017.