Court shoots down anti-Fair Districts appeal

By | 01.31.12 | 1:19 pm

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (Pic by MarioDB, via Flickr)

A three-judge panel today denied an appeal filed by Reps. Corrine Brown and Mario Diaz-Balart and the Florida House in their quest to have one of Florida’s two Fair Districts amendments thrown out.

Brown, Diaz-Balart and the House filed the appeal after a Miami judge tossed their original lawsuit last September, but the new ruling upholds the lower court’s findings:

At issue today is whether a state constitutional provision establishing standards for congressional redistricting that was approved by the people by initiative is contrary to the Elections Clause of the United States Constitution. Article I, Section 4 of the United States Constitution provides that the “Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof.” Appellants Corrine Brown and Mario Diaz-Balart, members of the United States House of Representatives, along with the Florida House of Representatives, appeal from a district court order granting final summary judgment to the appellees, the Florida Secretary of State and various intervening parties. The appellants claim that Amendment Six is unconstitutional because it was enacted by citizen initiative rather than by the state’s legislature in the ordinary “legislative process.” Moreover, they say that Amendment Six — even if properly enacted pursuant to Florida’s legislative process — imposes substantive requirements that far exceed the state legislature’s Elections Clause power.

We are unpersuaded. In the first place, the Florida voters’ act of lawmaking according to the state’s expressly enumerated lawmaking process is fully consistent with the commands of the federal Constitution’s Elections Clause, and consonant with the understanding given to the Elections Clause by the Supreme Court in two cases that all parties agree are controlling — Ohio ex rel. Davis v. Hildebrant, 241 U.S. 565 (1916), and Smiley v. Holm, 285 U.S. 355 (1932). As for the second claim, we also have little difficulty in concluding that the factors enumerated in Amendment Six have been for many years commonly considered by legislative bodies in congressional redistricting and long accepted by the courts as being lawful and consistent with the powers delegated to the state legislatures by the United States Constitution. Accordingly, we affirm the order of summary judgment entered by the district court. [Emphasis added.]

Read the court’s ruling here:

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