Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Decision raises more questions about documents in redistricting case

TALLAHASSEE — The trial challenging Florida's newly drawn congressional map ended two weeks ago and the judge could rule at any time on whether the revised boundaries violate the law.

Even so, a 1st District Court of Appeal opinion issued Thursday could jeopardize the use of 538 pages of confidential documents that were introduced as evidence.

The appeals court voted 5-4 that the Florida Supreme Court should ultimately decide whether the Leon County circuit judge assigned to the case was correct when he gave the plaintiffs in the case — a coalition of citizens groups — access to the secret emails, maps and planning documents held by political consultants to Republican legislators.

Now, the Florida Supreme Court will have to decide if it wants to take up the case. If so, the high court could agree with or overturn Circuit Judge Terry Lewis' initial ruling that the secret documents were admissible in court.

It is unclear how much these documents are affecting the larger case. Mark Herron, a lawyer for the coalition that includes the League of Women Voters of Florida, said the dispute about this evidence is just one aspect of the case. The Republican Party of Florida declined comment.

The citizen groups have asked Lewis to invalidate the congressional map the Legislature approved in 2012.

Thursday's opinion was a procedural development that both sides had expected. In fact, the circuit court, appeals court and Supreme Court have been bouncing around rulings on the secret documents for weeks.

The four appellate judges who dissented from Thursday's opinion said they had concerns about process and the merits of the dispute about the evidence. Certifying the matter to the high court isn't justified because the issue is not one of "great public importance," as the majority said, but "merely a discovery dispute that happened to arise in an important, high-profile case," wrote Appellate Judge T. Kent Wetherell.

Herron thinks the dispute about evidence, which pits political consulting firm Data Targeting and its owner, Pat Bainter, against the citizen groups, isn't the only matter that will eventually wind up in the state's highest court.

"This opinion on the Bainter documents and the issue of the merits of the trial that went for two weeks with Judge Lewis will eventually all be before the Florida Supreme Court," he said.

Contact Tia Mitchell at (850) 224-7263 or tmitchell@tampabay.com.

Decision raises more questions about documents in redistricting case 06/19/14 [Last modified: Thursday, June 19, 2014 8:49pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Florida education news: jobs, desegregation, lawsuits and more

    Blogs

    RESOURCES: A job created last year to coach and mentor first-year teachers in struggling schools, which was funded by the Pinellas County school district and the teacher's union, is being …

    Third-grade teacher Rachel Lachiusa, 23, left, gets help from Kali Davis, whose job it was to mentor first-year teachers in St. Petersburg.
  2. Jack Latvala can win

    Blogs

    From today's column:

    Latavla
  3. Forecast: Isolated showers to start along the coast before pushing inland

    Weather

    Tampa Bay residents can expect isolated showers mainly along the coast this morning before they push inland this afternoon.

    Tampa Bay's 7-day forecast [WTSP]
  4. Rick Scott for President?

    Blogs

    Reubin Askew tried. So did Bob Graham. And Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio. When you've shown an ability to win statewide elections in America's biggest swing state, you're almost automatically a credible contender for president.

    Rick Scott
  5. The next step in a sex abuse survivor's recovery: Erasing her tattoo

    Health

    TAMPA — Even after 20 years, Sufiyah can't escape the memories of being sexually exploited by gang members as a teenager.

    The tattoo makes it impossible.

    Sufiyah, an aAbuse survivor, prepares to have a tattoo removed  at Tampa Tattoo Vanish  on Thursday. During her teen years, she was sexually exploited by a gang. The tattoo is a mark of her exploiters. 

Tampa Tattoo Vanish is a new tattoo removal business run by Brian Morrison, where survivors of human trafficking get free tattoo removal.  [CHARLIE KAIJO   |   Times