Federal lawsuit targets Florida Rep. Corrine Brown's meandering district

Published Jan. 17, 2014

TALLAHASSEE — Florida's famously convoluted congressional district, held by Democratic U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown of Jacksonville, is under fire again as two Gainesville men have filed a lawsuit asking a federal court to order the Legislature to redraw the map before the November election.

William Everett Warinner and James C. Miller Sr., both registered voters in Brown's district, claim that the "serpentine route" of the meandering district violates their constitutional rights to equal protection because it packs black voters into the district in an effort to "bleach" adjoining districts to benefit Republicans.

Warinner is among the plaintiffs already challenging Florida's entire congressional redistricting map in state court, alleging that it violates the redistricting amendments in the state Constitution because the map was drawn with partisan intent.

According to the federal complaint against Secretary of State Ken Detzner, plaintiffs claim they are being deprived of their 14th Amendment right to equal protection because the district was drawn with race as the predominant factor. They want a court to throw out the map and prevent another election from being held using those district boundaries.

Detzner's lawyers have asked the three-judge panel assigned to the case in Orlando to either dismiss the lawsuit or change the venue to Tallahassee.

The plaintiffs acknowledge that they have attempted to obtain a remedy in state court but have "encountered many obstacles to obtaining relief, largely caused by the Florida Legislature's and third-party political consultants' continued refusal to produce relevant evidence."

The Florida Supreme Court in December ordered the Legislature and its staff members to testify under oath about their intentions when drawing the congressional districts. A trial date has been set for May 19, nearly two weeks after Florida's filing deadline for congressional races.

Brown, who has occupied the snake-shaped district since it was first drawn by legislators in 1992, has defended the district in past court challenges.

Times political editor Adam C. Smith contributed to this report.