Florida Supreme Court stays out of DeSantis redistricting plan

TALLAHASSEE, Florida. – Florida’s Supreme Court on Thursday declined to engage in a congressional redistricting fight, leaving in place a lower court ruling that would pave the way for the use of a controversial plan Gov. Ron DeSantis made go to the Legislative Assembly.

The judges, in a 4-1 decision, denied a request by the suffrage groups to stay a decision of the 1st District Court of Appeals. The appeals court ruling would effectively allow the DeSantis plan to be used in this year’s election as legal battles continue.

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Thursday’s one-paragraph ruling is part of a series of legal moves as voting rights groups and other plaintiffs challenge the constitutionality of the DeSantis-backed plan, which lawmakers passed. in a special legislative session in April.

Leon County Circuit Judge Layne Smith sided with the plaintiffs and issued a temporary injunction to block the plan and require the use of a different card. The 1st District Court of Appeals, however, suspended Smith’s temporary injunction. This decision would allow the use of the plan supported by DeSantis.

Suffrage groups then asked the Supreme Court to impose a stay on the 1st District Court of Appeals decision. But the majority of the Supreme Court refused to do so.

“Here, petitioners (plaintiffs) ask this (Supreme) Court to intervene in the pending review by the Court of Appeals for the First District of an appeal from an order imposing a temporary injunction,” the decision of judges Ricky Polston, Carlos Muniz, John Couriel and Jamie dit Grosshans. “At the moment, this (Supreme) Court has no jurisdiction in the matter.”

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Justice Jorge Labarga dissented, while Chief Justice Charles Canady and Justice Alan Lawson were recused. The court did not explain why Canady and Lawson stayed out of the case.

The case centers on Congressional District 5, a sprawling North Florida district that was drawn in the past to help elect a black congressman. DeSantis argued that continuing with such a district would involve racial gerrymandering and violate the Equal Protection Clause of the US Constitution.

The legislature approved DeSantis’ proposal to reorganize the neighborhood, condensing it into the Jacksonville area. But Smith ruled the plan violated a 2010 state constitutional amendment — known as the Fair Districts Amendment — that prohibited diminishing the ability of minority voters to “elect representatives of their choosing.”

In his dissent Thursday, Labarga alluded to overwhelming voter support for the Fair Districts and said the Supreme Court will ultimately be asked to rule on Smith’s temporary injunction. Although the 1st District Court of Appeals stayed the injunction, it did not rule on the issues underlying the injunction.

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“Given this (Supreme) Court’s history of reviewing congressional redistricting cases, I cannot foresee that we will not have jurisdiction to review the district court’s decision on the merits (on the ‘underlying injunction),’ Labarga wrote. “At stake here is the tenure of 62.9% of Florida voters who voted in 2010 for one of what are commonly referred to as the Fair District Amendments to the Florida Constitution – for comparison, 62.9% of the vote is an overwhelming margin.”

The plaintiffs rushed to block the DeSantis-backed plan because qualifying candidates for this year’s election will take place from June 13-17 and the primaries will be held on August 23.

The plan is expected to increase the number of Republicans in the state’s congressional delegation from 16 to 20, based on past voting patterns. District 5 is currently held by U.S. Representative Al Lawson, a black Democrat, but the revamped district would likely move to Republicans.

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Smith’s temporary injunction ordered the use of a map that would retain the current sprawling shape of the district, which stretches from Jacksonville west to Tallahassee. Use of this map would also affect other districts.

Smith, who was appointed circuit judge by DeSantis, wrote that the plaintiffs had shown a “substantial likelihood of proving that the adopted plan (passed by the Legislative Assembly) violates the Fair Amendment’s standard of non-diminishment.” Districts.

But in explaining his suspension, a three-judge appeals court panel sharply criticized the temporary injunction, calling it “manifestly unlawful”.

In asking the Supreme Court to essentially overturn the appeals court stay, however, plaintiffs’ attorneys wrote that the case “presents issues of overriding public importance, involves provisions of the Florida constitutions and federal, and will escape the jurisdiction of this (Supreme) Court, if such jurisdiction is not invoked now.

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Muniz, Couriel and Grosshans were Supreme Court nominees by DeSantis, while Polston and Labarga were nominated by former Gov. Charlie Crist.

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