Sussex County Delaware

Court Asked to Drop
Redistricting Lawsuit

 
Sussex County Council ...

Legislators Say Courts Not
Proper Place to Decide Issue

Members of the Delaware House of Representatives have asked Superior Court to dismiss a lawsuit requesting that the court develop new legislative district maps for the General Assembly, according to a press release submitted by those lawmakers on Thursday, Feb. 7, 2002.

Both Republican and Democratic state representatives asked the court to dismiss the suit filed by Frank Sims, chairman of the Independent Party of Delaware, last month.

Under a constitutional mandate, all forms of representative government in the nation must redraw their legislative districts following the U.S. Census every 10 years.

In their dismissal filings, state representatives of both parties stated that the Superior Court lacks jurisdiction over re-districting matters.

"We believe Superior Court is the wrong court for this case," said Ron Smith, a Dover-based attorney representing House Republicans. "Under our state constitution, Superior Court cannot fashion an equitable solution. In other words, they're not allowed to color outside the lines. However, that's exactly what Mr. Sims asked for when he requested that the court draw new legislative districts."

"Redistricting is a legislative function, pure and simple," said House Majority Leader Wayne Smith (R-Brandywine Hundred). "It's not always pretty, Lord knows that's the case this year. But it is still the unequivocal responsibility of the legislative branch to effect a plan for the next 10 years. That responsibility can not be divided, assigned nor usurped."

House members believe that if Superior Court takes up the case, any resulting decision could be appealed and challenged on the jurisdictional issue.

"We don't believe the courts should be deciding this issue at all," Smith said. "However, we want to make sure if that undesirable outcome occurs that it is in the proper court. If Superior Court rules on this, we could be looking at a chaotic situation where challenges over legal issues prevent us from arriving at an agreeable plan. Preventing that was our primary motivation for filing this response."

Although the arguments used by House Republicans and Democrats are identical, Smith said the filings were done separately for the sake of flexibility should the two caucuses wish to pursue different legal avenues in the future.

With broad bipartisan support, the House passed a redistricting plan on November 1 to increase its membership from 41 to 45 seats. House members believe the four new seats are needed to deal with the 43-percent jump in state population since the last House expansion 30-years ago.

The Democratic-controlled Senate passed a redistricting plan that added no additional seats, but would pit Republicans lawmakers in both chambers against each other in primary races. The plan passed along a party line vote of 13 to 8.


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