- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 11, 2001

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. — Lawyers in a Virginia redistricting lawsuit held a hearing in a conference room here yesterday after the judge refused to cut his vacation short.
Attorneys for a group of Virginia Democrats asked Circuit Court Judge Richard C. Pattisall to order that 1991 district lines be used in this fall's House of Delegates elections while their lawsuit makes its way through the courts.
"That's all we're asking — one more election under the 1991 districts," attorney Jonathan D. Hacker told Judge Pattisall.
The Democratic lawmakers sued over a new redistricting plan drawn up by the Republican-led General Assembly. The lawsuit claims Republican leaders engaged in racial, gender and partisan gerrymandering in drawing up the new districts.
Mr. Hacker asked Judge Pattisall to issue an injunction blocking the use of the new districts until the lawsuit is resolved. "If the election is held November 6 under the current districts, it's going to be an unconstitutional election," he told the judge.
The judge did not rule.
Judge Pattisall has been vacationing on the resort island, and attorneys representing the plaintiffs and the Attorney General's Office flew down yesterday morning for the hearing, which took most of the day. A trial is set for Sept. 20 in Salem, where the lawsuit was filed.
Assistant Attorney General Greg Lucyk argued the Democrats were seeking a remedy before the trial can take place.
"They want sentence first, verdict later," he said. "This is 'Alice in Wonderland.'"
"What the plaintiffs want to do is disrupt elections for 100 House of Delegates districts because seven [districts] may be illegal," Mr. Lucyk said.
He said primaries have been held in several districts and, if the state were to revert to the 1991 districts, the whole process would have to start again, likely delaying the elections until at least January.
The court, by granting an injunction, would be overturning new districts that already have been approved by the U.S. Department of Justice under the Voting Rights Act, he said.
But Mr. Hacker said there was no reason that couldn't be done quickly.
The House has 52 Republicans, 46 Democrats and two independents, including one who organizes with the GOP. Since redistricting, a dozen Democrats have announced they will not seek re-election, with several citing their new, politically unfriendly districts.
During yesterday's hearing, both sides showed the judge maps of various legislative districts.
Mr. Hacker said majority Republicans tried to pack blacks into predominantly black districts, and claimed the new districts violated a goal of maintaining communities of interest.
Mr. Lucyk argued legislators tried to keep intact the districts created in 1991.
Earlier, Mr. Lucyk asked Judge Pattisall, a former Democratic county official who once campaigned for the Virginia Senate, to remove himself from the case.
"There is a public perception problem in this case," Mr. Lucyk said, noting people think Judge Pattisall is aligned with the Democrats.
The judge refused, saying his last political involvement was two decades ago.
"If I had any doubt that I couldn't hear this case and be fair, I would have gotten out long ago," he said. "Perception is important, but sometimes the perception is not correct."


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