Thursday, March 31, 2011

Lots of activity in NAACP v Barbour, et al

There are 16 docket entries so far today in NAACP v. Barbour, et al, the legislative redistricting case. Here's what's been filed:

Attorney General Jim Hood's Answer and Response to Motion to Intervene

Mississippi Republican Party's Response to Motion to Intervene and Response to Motion for TRO

Governor Haley Barbour's Answer

Connie Cochran's Answer, Response to Motion to Intervene and Response to Motion for Three Judge Panel

Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann's Answer and Response to Motion to Intervene

Order of the Court setting deadline for responses from NAACP and the House Apportionment Committee to the opposition of Hosemann and the Mississippi Republican Party to intervention. The deadline is 9 a.m. tomorrow.

Order of the Court stating its intention to hold a hearing on the temporary restraining order. That hearing will be scheduled after Monday, April 4, 2011.

That's a lot of documents, and I don't have time to put them all on Scribd. The number of documents and a time crunch also will make the rest of this post somewhat scattered. Forgive me in advance.

Here's the skinny: As for whether or not the House Apportionment and Elections Committee should be allowed to intervene, AG Hood does not oppose it, but the Mississippi Republican Party and Secretary of State Hosemann do. The lawyer for the Mississippi Republican Party, Mike Wallace, argues that the Committee does not have a "protectable interest" in the lawsuit. In reference to the fact that the Committee was allowed to intervene 20 years ago, Wallace argues that this case is different because the House plan wasn't stricken by the Department of Justice. It's an inventive argument, but don't see it going very far. Hosemann, through his lawyer Robert Gibbs, makes a more interesting argument that the rules of the House don't specifically grant the Committee the power to enter into litigation, and therefore the Committee doesn't have the power to do so. I honestly wonder how that argument played out twenty years ago.

With respect to the TRO, which would prevent legislative elections this November under the current districts, Wallace argues that the Mississippi Republican Party didn't understand the request for a TRO until yesterday, and therefore didn't oppose it until now. Now, Wallace argues, a single judge doesn't have the authority to grant a TRO except in "extraordinary circumstances." Wallace offers no authority for this language, and the law itself imposes no such limitation on Judge Reeves' power. A thorough reading of the statute reveals that a single judge, in this case Judge Reeves, can enter a TRO if "specified irreparable damage will result if the order is not granted...." Furthermore, any decision by Reeves on the TRO can be reviewed by the three judge panel. Wallace admits that the districts are unconstitutional as drawn, but that the 3 judge panel should make the call on the TRO since they will, presumably have plenty of time to do so. What's interesting here is that Wallace is arguing in circles. First, he admits that the current districts are unconstitutional. Then he says that Judge Reeves should wait until a three judge panel can determine what Wallace just admitted. In short, there is no real opposition to the TRO, it's just that Wallace doesn't want Judge Reeves to be the one to grant it.

What's the takeaway from all of this? Well, the MSGOP wants to wait until after a 3 judge panel can be appointed before a TRO is entered, one that they presumably wouldn't oppose. (They just admitted the current districts are unconstitutional, after all.) It's all part of their delay game, which I've talked about ad nauseum here. They don't want the Court to move quickly enough to resolve this matter prior to June 1, which would necessitate two elections. They want two elections because they feel they have a better chance of taking the House if there are two elections. That's been their overarching strategy since this whole thing started, so it's no surprise that they're sticking with it now. I also believe that some Republican legislators were sold a bill of goods by Republican strategists as to how all of this would play out, and the TRO was, inexplicably, not something they mentioned. I believe Wallace's attempt to stay the TRO is an attempt to hold the team together in the short run.

As an aside, I find it interesting that the Mississippi Republican Party has as its attorney someone who has been hostile to the very existence of the Voting Rights Act. Wallace is a smart man and an able attorney, but he carries some baggage the MSGOP may not want associated with it in this lawsuit going forward.

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