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Three Judge Panel rules in favor of the Mississippi Constitution on Redistricting

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An important victory was had today for the Mississippi Constitution and basic tenets of federalism and separation of power.  Judges Redistrict opinion Over the past several months, redistricting efforts have been at the forefront of Mississippi politics.  First, the Legislature attempted, but failed to pass a joint resolution to reapportion the state.  Then, the NAACP filed a lawsuit alleging that the state was unconstitutionally mal-apportioned due to population shifts and asking the Court to enjoin the upcoming 2011 elections.  The litigation included multiple parties taking multiple positions.  Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann argued that the Court lacked jurisdiction.  His argument was based on the fact that the Mississippi Constitution gives the legislature until 2012 (the second year after the decennial census) to complete redistricting.  The remainder of the parties all conceded jurisdiction, but argued for different “interim remedies,” with the Republican Party and the Governor asking the Court to draw new lines on its own and the other parties asking the Court to impose the 2011 plans that had been proposed in the House & Senate, but which did not garner the support of both chambers. After considering the arguments and briefs of the parties, the Court issued an “inclination” order stating that it intended to impose the 2011 plans, as recommended by the NAACP, State Democrat Party, etc.  Today, however, the Court has issued an Order which reverses course, holding that it lacks the authority to implement an interim remedy and that elections must be held under existing lines. What happened between the time of the inclination Order and today’s ruling? The Mississippi Tea Party filed an AmicusBrief in which it argued in favor of the position advocated by Secretary Hosemann.  The brief went one step further though, in attempting to demonstrate not only the meaning of the Mississippi Constitution, but the fact that the Mississippi Constitution, both on its face and in its application, did not violate the U.S. Constitution.   This briefing was the only written submission denying the Court’s authority to impose a remedy between the time of the inclination order and today’s Order.  The Tea Party relied heavily on the Supreme Court case of Reynolds v. Sims to demonstrate that waiting until next year, as provided for by the Mississippi Constitution, did not violate the idea of “one man, one vote.” Specifically, we argued that the question of whether the Court had the authority to impose a remedy hinged “entirely on the enforceability of Sec. 254 of the Mississippi Constitution” and that “the enforceability of Sec. 254 hinges on a single question—namely, whether the period provided by Sec. 254 to complete legislative redistricting (in 2012) in some manner violates the U.S. Constitution or conflicts with associated federal law?”  Using Reynolds, we then argued that if Sec. 254 does not violate the U.S. Constitution, then the lawsuit was “entirely premature.” The Court’s Order adopted the question posed by the Tea Party in analyzing the issues before it: “The central  question we must therefore decide is whether, in its application to the facts before us, Article 13, Sec. 254 of the Mississippi Constitution impairs the Equal Protection Clause’s principle of “one person, one vote.”  The Court explained “we initially expressed our inclination to impose an interim remedy…Upon further consideration, we have concluded that, in the light of the fact that no party has argued, or even asserted, that Section 254 is unconstitutional on its face, or as applied, imposing an interim remedy would be premature and even inconsistent with the Supreme Court’s holding in Reynolds.” As I said in opening, this complete change in position can be seen as nothing short of a victory for the Mississippi Constitution and the people of Mississippi.  I’ve attached a copy of our brief and the Court’s Order should anyone want to read/compare.   I am thankful for the opportunity I had to draft the argument on behalf of the Tea Party and for the help of my co-counsel, Richard Wilbourn. Best Regards, Russ Latino, Attorney & Lead Counsel for MS Tea Party]]]]> ]]>

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