US District Court Judge Roslyn O. Silver today ordered both sides to provide additional information for consideration in the lawsuit filed last year by Republicans challenging the legislative district map.
The text of the order reads:
The parties are directed to comment on the effect, if any, of the decision in Shelby v Holder, 2013 WL 3184629 (U.S. Supreme Court June 25, 2013), on this case, including, in particular but without limitation, on the possibility of abstention in favor of state court adjudication.
Accordingly,Of course, the first named plaintiff in this case is our friendly, neighborhood Republican malcontent, Wes Harris (who this summer also happens to be trying to muster support for a referendum). The defendant is the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission.
IT IS ORDERED that the parties shall file supplemental briefs as follows:
1. Plaintiffs' brief by July 19, 2013, not to exceed 20 pages.
2. Defendants' brief by August 2, 2013, not to exceed 20 pages.
3. Plaintiffs' reply brief by August 9, 2013, not to exceed 10 pages.
So this might suggest the District Court is considering whether to punt this over to a state court (which would require, I believe, starting over from scratch). Another possibility is the three-judge panel chaired by Judge Silver may be looking for a preview of what might be argued in a hypothetical appeal of the trial court's ultimate ruling. If that's what this is about, the court may be wanting to establish a record related to those issues so an appeals court can get a framework on how and why the trial court decided what it will have decided.
Nevertheless, despite the sense of urgency demonstrated by Judge Silver in pre-trial orders, we are likely not going to get any decision in time for the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission to make wholesale changes to the legislative district map before the 2014 election cycle gets rolling, not that the District Court is necessarily inclined to order such changes anyway.
Just a little perspective based on the 2012 election cycle. The current legislative district map was adopted in January 2012 and had to be precleared by the Department of Justice before implementation. Notice of DOJ preclearance was received on April 26. Theoretically, therefore, if the District Court by October 1 does order changes to the legislative map, it's possible to get it done, as long as county elections officials have something to work with by Spring 2014. That still would require tremendous upheaval and additional cost.
The possibilities are endless, I suppose. Envision incumbent GOP lawmakers salivating at the dream of another supermajority along with advocates for competitive districts turning up the heat to demand even more competitive districts. Whoever wins that ultimate grudge match, so to speak, would then NOT face scrutiny by DOJ.