Arizona Legislature v. the AIRC court hearing this Friday

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

The Tea-Publican members of the Arizona Legislature are challenging the constitutionality of the voter-approved initiative creating the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (AIRC), Prop. 106 (2000), to determine redistricting election boundaries rather than the state legislature. Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (CV12-01211-PHX-PGR). A hearing is set for oral argument in U.S. District Court before a three judge panel on Friday, January 24, 2014 at 10:00 a.m.

Based upon case law precedents, this should be a no-brainer for the court in favor of the AIRC.

A nearly identical claim was made by the Florida Legislature against a citizens initiative, Amendment Six, for a state constitutional provision establishing standards for congressional redistricting. The Florida Legislature, as does the Arizona Legislature, asserted that the citizens initiative was contrary to the Elections Clause of the United States Constitution, Article I, Section 4.

Republican members of Congress and the Florida House of Representatives appealed to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals from a U.S. District Court summary judgment order in Diaz-Balart v. Scott, No. 1:10-CV-23968 (S.D. Fla.) upholding Amendment Six. They asserted that "Amendment Six is unconstitutional because it was enacted by citizen initiative rather than by the state's legislature in the ordinary 'legislative process.' Moreover, they asserted that Amendment Six — even if properly enacted pursuant to Florida's legislative process — imposes substantive requirements that far exceed the state legislature's Elections Clause powers."

In Corrine Brown et. al. v. Secretary of State of Florida, et al., No. 11-14554 (11th Cir. 2012), the Eleventh Circuit affirmed (.pdf) the trial court's summary judgment order:

We are unpersuaded. In the first place, the Florida voters' act of lawmaking according to the state's expressly enumerated lawmaking process is fully consistent wit the commands of the federal Constitution's Elections Clause, and consonant with the understanding given to the Elections Clause by the Supreme Court in two cases that all parties agree are controlling — State of Ohio ex rel Davis. v. Hildebrant, 241 U.S. 565 (1916) and Smiley v. Holm, 285 U.S 355 (1932). As for the second claim, we also have little difficulty concluding that the factors enumerated in Amendment Six have been for many years commonly considered by legislative bodies in congressional redistricting and long accepted by the courts as being lawful and consistent with the powers delegated to the state legislatures by the United States Constitution. Accordingly, we affirm the order of summary judgment entered by the district court.

While Arizona is not in the 11th Circuit, this case is directly on point and is persuasive precedent.

The Arizona Constitution has a "reservation of powers to [the] people" for initiative and referendum: "the people reserve the power to propose laws and amendments to the constitution and to enact or reject such laws and amendments at the polls, independently of the legislature; and they also reserve, for use at their own option, the power to approve or reject at the polls any act, or item, section, or part of any act, of the legislature." Arizona Constitution, Article 4, Part 1 Section 1.

This constitutional provision was amended by citizens initiative, Prop. 105 (1998), the Voter Protection Act, by adding Section 6, in pertinent part: "(6) (B) The legislature shall not have the power to repeal an initiative measure approved by a majority of the votes cast thereon or to repeal a referendum measure decided by a majority of the votes cast thereon."

The Tea-Publican members of the Arizona Legislature assert that they are not trying to "repeal" the citizens initiative creating the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (AIRC), so much as they are asserting that Prop. 106 (2000) is unconstitutional because it is contrary to the Elections Clause of the United States Constitution, Article I, Section 4. This same argument was soundly rejected by the U.S. District Court (S.D.Fla.) and the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals: "The Supreme Court . . . has provided a clear and unambiguous answer to this question, twice explaining that the term 'legislature' in the Elections Clause refers not just to a states' legislative body but more broadly to the entire lawmaking process of the state."

The Arizona Legislature's case is without merit.

Now, there are some extraneous issues, I believe, raised in Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission that unnecessarily complicate what should be a quick and simple ruling in favor of the AIRC. Intervenors in an amicus brief assert that the Voter Protection Act precludes the Arizona legislature from even bringing this action in the first place. The legislature replies that the Voter protection Act is not even implicated in this lawsuit. I suspect the court will decide this case on the merits without having to resort to addressing these issues on the merits. These issues are not determinative of the outcome.

I understand that intrepid reporter and chronicler of the AIRC, Steve Muratore, will be in court on Friday to cover this hearing. I look forward to his report, which i am certain will be more illuminating than the biased GOP-friendly media reporting we get in Arizona.

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