By Sean Whaley, Nevada News Bureau: Attorneys for the Nevada Republican Party today filed a brief with the Nevada Supreme Court opposing Secretary of State Ross Miller’s emergency petition seeking to intervene on the question of the authority of the courts to decide the state’s political boundaries instead of the Legislature.
The Supreme Court has scheduled oral arguments for Nov. 14 on questions raised by Miller on whether it is the responsibility of the Legislature to draw the political boundaries, not the courts.
In a brief in opposition to Miller, Republican Party attorney Mark Hutchison called the petition moot since the special masters appointed by Carson City District Judge James Todd Russell worked quickly to submit proposed maps redrawing the state’s congressional and legislative districts.
“In short, the District Court action is proceeding apace, and the court will be in a position to issue final plans during, and perhaps even before, the beginning of November 2011,” the filing says. “This timeline provides ample time for any appeal to be heard and decided by this court well in advance of upcoming election deadlines. As such, petitioner’s original grounds for seeking this writ effectively are moot in light of subsequent events and, for this and other reasons set forth more fully below, the emergency petition should be denied.”
Russell will hold a hearing Thursday to consider the maps submitted Oct. 14 by the three special masters.
Hutchison, in a late filing by the deadline today to the proposed political districts submitted by the special masters, identified a few concerns in the proposed maps.
“Despite the special maters’ largely successful performance of their duties, the court has charged the parties to identify any legal errors with the proposed maps. Legal errors do exist in the current maps, but they are few.”
One concern cited by Hutchison is the Senate District 8 seat now held by Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas. He argues in the filing the district is irregularly shaped and not compact.
There is also a concern cited about Senate District 6, now held by Sen. Allison Copening, D-Las Vegas, as drawn favoring Democrats where it has historically been a Republican seat.
Following two public hearings on Oct. 10 and 11, the court-appointed special masters filed their proposed maps three days later. Before the maps were filed Oct. 14, Hutchison issued a statement that said the party had faith in the panel to submit fair maps.
“Creating fair districts for both elected legislators and the public has been the goal of the Republicans since the beginning of the 2011 legislative session,” the statement said.
As to Miller’s underlying argument that it is the Legislature’s duty to perform the redistricting process, Hutchison said in his filing with the Supreme Court that he agrees the Nevada constitution entrusts the task of redistricting to the Legislature, but that, “if the Legislature fails to fulfill its duty, it may be incumbent upon other branches of government to remedy the situation.”
Gov. Brian Sandoval thus far has rejected any suggestion that he call a special session of the Legislature to resolve the redistricting issue. The Democrat-controlled Legislature passed two redistricting plans during the 2011 legislative session, but both were vetoed by the Republican governor who cited concerns that they violated the federal Voting Rights Act.