Oral arguments in anti-Fair Districts appeal coming next Tuesday
The same day the Florida Legislature meets to kick off its 2012 session, lawyers for Reps. Corrine Brown and Mario Diaz-Balart and the state House will again argue their case (.pdf) against one of the two Fair Districts amendments approved by Florida voters in November 2010.
Next Tuesday’s hearing is part of the appeal filed by lawyers representing the Florida House, Brown and Diaz-Balart, challenging the September decision by a judge to throw out their lawsuit against Fair Districts Amendment 6, created to limit the state Legislature’s ability to redraw congressional district lines for partisan gain.
The issue at the heart of the original lawsuit was whether Florida citizens have the power to create rules for how their Legislature lays out district lines. Stephen Cody — the lawyer representing Brown, D-Jacksonville, and Diaz-Balart, R-Miami — told The Florida Independent last fall that the U.S. Constitution grants the state Legislature the authority to draw districts however it likes.
“The U.S. Constitution delegates to the state Legislature the power,” Cody said, “and what the state constitution did was to come in and say, in effect, ‘The U.S. Constitution gives the Legislature complete discretion. We’re going to take away some of that discretion.’”
Judge Ursula Ungaro disagreed with that interpretation. “Amendment VI does not supplant the Florida legislature,” she wrote in her ruling. “Rather, it attaches a series of conditions, adopted in accordance with the state constitution, to eventual legislative action on redistricting.”
“Once the people of Florida act to limit the legislature’s options through a constitutional amendment, the new constitutional provision binds the legislature,” Ungaro argued.