Federal Judges Weigh Their Role After Special Session Called To Handle Redistricting

Jun 21, 2013

LEXINGTON, Ky. - A three-judge panel conducted the first hearing on a pair of lawsuits involving legislative redistricting Friday. The panel’s decision will set the course for future judicial involvement in redrawing district lines. 

Much of today’s hearing focused on whether the court should be making its own preparations to step in with a redistricting plan should the legislature fail to produce new, constitutionally-acceptable maps during its special session in August. Pierce Whites, general counsel to state House Speaker Greg Stumbo, argued the court should stay its hand until the session, but representatives for the plaintiffs said there are no guarantees the legislature will deliver.

Judge William O. Bertelsman said that the tribunal is determined to have a constitutional redistricting plan in place. He said if the legislature doesn't do it, he and the other judges will.

12 Northern Kentucky residents filed a federal suit in April to urge the legislature to act before November. The ACLU soon followed up with a similar suit.

Gov. Steve Beshear on Thursday called for a special legislative session to begin on Aug. 19 to deal with the issue.

Each decade, lawmakers are required to draw new district boundaries to account for population changes recorded by the U.S. Census Bureau. The Kentucky Supreme Court struck down lawmakers' initial plan last year.