Nov 21, 2016

Fed Panel Finds Wisc Republican Gerrymandering Unconstitutional

Whitford. v. Nichol opinion and order, p.11

Wisconsin case heads directly to United States Supreme Court

Updated: Wisconsin gerrymandering case follows by some three months a gerrymandering case in North Carolina in which Republicans in a similar manner to Wisconsin Republicans drew a redistricting map as a means to choose voters and help Republicans stay in political power, (Convington v. North Carolina, (Case No. 1:15-cv-399)).
The Wisconsin Republican Party's gerrymandered map of state legislative districts has been unconstitutional by a three judge panel.

The federal panel is composed of Kenneth Francis Ripple, (Senior Judge status, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit), Barbara Crabb, (Senior Judge status U.S. District Judge for the Western District of Wisconsin), and William C. Griesbach (Chief Judge, U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of Wisconsin).

The case is Whitford v. Nichol, (District Court (Case 3:15-cv-00421)) (2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 155022 (W.D. Wis., Nov. 17, 2015)).

Case filings can be found at Whitford v. Nichol, (Moritz). The opinion and order are posted. Judge Griesbach dissented.

A trial was held last May, challenging the constitutionality of the Republican legislative-redistricting scheme.

Election law expert, Rick Hasen, writes in reaction to today's opinion, Whitford is a "major victory for those who believe that courts should be in the business of policing redistricting plans that give partisan advantage to one party or another. [The three-judge court] has ruled 2-1 that the Wisconsin assembly districts drawn by the WI Republican legislature are an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. There’s still more to do in the case—namely figure out the correct remedy—but this is a case that will be headed directly to the Supreme Court, where its fate might depend upon who President-elect Trump nominates to the Supreme Court."

In 2011 Wisconsin legislative Republicans were told in secret to sign confidentiality agreements, ignore the public and repeat Republican-crafted talking points in deliberating 2011 Act 43, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported in February 2012:

As legislative leaders secretly developed new election maps last year to strengthen their majority, Republican lawmakers were told to ignore public comments and instead focus on what was said in private strategy sessions, according to a GOP memo that became public Monday.

Other newly, [in 2012], released documents also show almost all Republican lawmakers signed legal agreements promising not to discuss the new maps while they were being developed.

GOP lawmakers fought releasing these new documents and testifying about the maps in a pending court case, [since decided], but relented after a panel of three federal judges based in Milwaukee last month found they had filed frivolous motions in trying to shield the information from the public.
Included in the documents released Monday was a set of talking points that stressed that those who discussed the maps could eventually be called as a witness in a court case.

'Public comments on this map may be different than what you hear in this room. Ignore the public comments,' the talking points also say, (Patrick Marley, Daniel Bice and Jason Stein)

The plaintiffs are William Whitford, Roger Anclam, Emily Bunting, Mary Lynne Donohue, Helen Harris, Wayne Jensen, Wendy Sue Johnson, Janet Mitchell, James Seaton, Allison Seaton, Jerome Wallace and Donald Winter.

Linked ahead is Exhibit 4 - Secrecy Agreements, (PDF, beginning at p. 173 in July 2015 complaint), listing all of the legislative Republicans who signed secrecy agreements with Michael Best and Friedrich, LLP.

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