Stumbo Loses Bid For Stay In Redistricting Case

Jun 28, 2013

LOUISVILLE, Ky -- A three-judge panel Friday upped the pressure on Kentucky lawmakers to redraw legislative boundaries, denying a request for a stay in two lawsuits calling on judges to assume the task that has remained unfinished even as another election looms next year.

The motion for the stay was sought by Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo, who says it's the General Assembly's job to set the boundaries. Gov. Steve Beshear has called a special legislative session starting Aug. 19 to give lawmakers another chance to deal with the issue.

In writing for the three-judge panel, U.S. District Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove acknowledged lawmakers have primary responsibility for redrawing the boundaries and said the court won't interfere. He referred to legislative action as "Plan A," but added that when "the political branches fail," the law gives secondary responsibility for those duties to the courts - which he called "Plan B."

As this court is secondarily responsible for timely providing constitutional electoral maps should the legislature fail, a stay would interfere with the court's duties," he wrote. "Either as a result of Plan A or Plan B, all citizens of the Commonwealth of Kentucky must be fairly represented in the coming elections."

The panel also set a trial in the case for Sept. 23.

Beshear has stressed that he wants lawmakers to wrap up their redistricting work quickly in the upcoming special session, largely to keep down the costs. Special sessions run more than $60,000 a day. Beshear has said he hopes redistricting would take no more than five days, the minimum time necessary to get a bill through the legislature.

Each decade, lawmakers are required to draw new congressional, legislative and judicial district boundaries to account for population changes recorded by the U.S. Census Bureau. Kentucky had major population shifts between 2000 and 2010, requiring changes in boundary lines to comply with the federal and state "one person, one vote" mandate.

Lawmakers completed congressional redistricting.

However, the Kentucky Supreme Court struck down the legislative districts last year, finding them unconstitutional because they weren't adequately balanced by population. The non-controversial judicial districts were included in the bill containing the legislative proposal that was struck down, and will have to be passed again in the special session.

To try to speed up the process, the ACLU filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Louisville-area voters calling for a three-judge panel to redraw legislative boundaries, claiming inaction by lawmakers has left them with inadequate representation in the Legislature. And a group of northern Kentucky residents filed another lawsuit in an attempt to force the Legislature to act. They claim rapid growth in northern Kentucky has left them without proper representation.

The three-judge panel consolidated the two lawsuits.

Van Tatenhove is joined on the panel by 6th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Danny Boggs and U.S. District Judge William O. Bertelsman.