TALLAHASSEE (NSF) – Attorneys for Democratic Congresswoman Corrine Brown are pushing back against demands that she and her supporters foot the legal bill for groups that defended a new redistricting plan in a federal court battle.READ MORE: Florida Lawmakers Move Quickly On Keeping Churches Open in Emergencies
In filings last week in U.S. District Court in Tallahassee, Brown’s lawyers said her claims against the new map of her district were not “frivolous,” as the organizations that defended the map have argued. A three-judge federal panel rejected Brown’s claims.
“This court held against the plaintiffs because they failed to present sufficient statistical evidence to prove a Voting Rights Act violation, not because they brought a frivolous lawsuit or proceeded in the face of unassailable evidence that contradicted their filing,” attorney William Sheppard wrote in one part of the brief dealing with the rights of African-American voters in districts surrounding Brown’s.
Brown’s federal lawsuit seeking to overturn her new district was the latest chapter in a legal odyssey over redistricting that is now in its fifth year. Under a plan approved by the Legislature in 2012, and altered slightly in 2014, Brown’s district ran from Jacksonville in the north to Orlando in the south. That is roughly the same path the district has followed for more than 20 years.
But following a landmark Florida Supreme Court decision last year invalidating the map because of a voter-approved ban on political gerrymandering, Brown’s district was redrawn to cut across North Florida, running from Jacksonville in the east to Gadsden County in the west, carving up Tallahassee along the way.READ MORE: Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo Gets Backing After Democrats Walk Out
Brown and a group of voters sued, claiming the changes would weaken the ability of African-American voters to elect candidates of their choice, a potential violation of the federal Voting Rights Act. The three-judge panel unanimously rejected the claims last month, but Brown later announced she would appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Sheppard’s filing was a response to a coalition of groups, including the League Women Voters of Florida and Common Cause Florida, as well as some voters, who intervened in the case to defend the revised districts. They argued that Brown and her supporters should have to pay because the lawsuit pushed ahead despite “(a) long history of prior litigation and utter lack of essential proof.”
The organizations that defended Brown’s new district noted in a brief that Florida courts have repeatedly rejected the argument that an east-west district violates protections for African-American voters.
“This case is an egregious addition to a long and sad pattern,” attorney David King wrote. “Alongside efforts of the Republican-led Legislature, Congresswoman Brown has repeatedly followed and launched unsuccessful attacks on Florida’s redistricting reform efforts.”
Efforts by groups like the League of Women Voters of Florida and Common Cause Florida to recoup their expenses have opened another front in the expensive legal battle over redistricting, which has also cost the state millions of dollars. In March, the Florida Supreme Court rejected a request by those groups to force the state to pay the groups’ legal fees for the initial fight over the districts lawmakers drew in 2012.MORE NEWS: Cancer Screenings Offered At Hialeah Firehouses As Part Of National Firefighter Cancer Awareness Month
The News Service Of Florida Brandon Larrabee contributed to this report.