- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 12, 2002

ANNAPOLIS The Maryland Court of Appeals yesterday ruled Gov. Parris N. Glendening's redistricting plan unconstitutional and said it will draw the lines that define state lawmakers' districts for the next 10 years.
The Democrat-driven plan violated requirements that districts be compact, contain substantially equal populations and give due regard to natural and political boundaries that separate jurisdictions, the state's highest court said in a brief order.
Republicans who are outnumbered by Democrats 2-to-1 among registered voters in Maryland and by an even greater margin in the legislature called it a "David and Goliath" win for the minority party, minority voters and equity over politics.
"I think the Democratic establishment is stunned right now. Certainly, they didn't expect this little old Maryland Republican Party to make a change," said Michael Steele, chairman of the state party.
Though the ruling comes 27 days before the filing deadline for November's elections, those on both sides of the dispute said they don't expect significant changes to be widespread.
The order did not say how quickly the court will deliver a plan or whether the deadline for district candidates, already delayed a week to July 8, would be pushed back again.
Mr. Glendening was on vacation yesterday when the court issued its ruling. His office released a statement that defended the work of his redistricting commission and said the court "failed to indicate specific concerns or objections." The statement said the administration would provide the court with the information it needs to redraw the plan.
Courts in six or seven states have ordered changes or substituted their own plans, said Tim Storey, a redistricting analyst with the National Conference of State Legislatures.
In three or four other states, legislatures have failed to approve plans and courts have drawn them instead, he said.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., a key member of the redistricting commission, said the state attorney general's office monitored the plan and found it constitutional but that "apparently the court disagreed."
He declined to speculate on what the court-drawn plan would look like.
"I have no idea what the court's thinking is on this issue," said Mr. Miller, whose district includes Calvert, Anne Arundel and part of Prince George's counties.
The seven-member Court of Appeals, whose judges all were appointed by Democratic governors, said it would issue a full opinion later.
Prince George's County Executive Wayne K. Curry, a Democrat who filed suit as a private citizen, said he hopes the court redraws Mr. Miller's district so that it does not include part of Prince George's County.
His attorney, Sam Hirsch, said putting southern Prince George's County in Mr. Miller's district along with portions of Calvert, Anne Arundel and Charles counties would dilute minority voters' strength. He said Prince George's County is the nation's most prosperous predominantly black jurisdiction.
Mr. Hirsch said the plan also keeps the number of majority-black districts in Prince George's at four instead of five.
"No district has ever taken in four counties," Mr. Hirsch said.
The redistricting battle has created problems for Mr. Miller, who is accused of trying to influence the court's decision.
Republicans are urging the judges to file criminal contempt charges against Mr. Miller and three other Democratic senators who tried to discuss redistricting with the court as it was hearing 14 lawsuits against the redistricting plan.
Senate Minority Leader J. Lowell Stoltzfus said the decision shows that judges did the right thing.
"They did not submit to the bullying and badgering of the Senate president or other senators that have significant power," said Mr. Stoltzfus, lower Eastern Shore Republican.
Mr. Miller said yesterday that neither he nor any other senator has discussed the matter with judges.
Late last month, Chief Judge Robert M. Bell released memos stating that Mr. Miller and senators Ida G. Ruben of Montgomery County; Ulysses Currie of Prince George's County; and Clarence Blount, who represents Baltimore, contacted four of the seven appeals court judges to talk about redistricting.
Judge Bell released few details about the incidents, but in a written statement he said judges cut off conversation when they realized the topic was redistricting.
Mr. Miller, who has sparred frequently with the judiciary, said he only complained and told judges they were "wrong" when they shifted the burden to the governor to defend his plan.
Republicans said Mr. Miller and the other Democratic senators only had to raise the redistricting issue in order to try to influence the judges.
Other senators said Mr. Miller asked judges about only the court process.
State Republican leaders also have asked the state's Attorney Grievance Commission to punish Mr. Miller, a trial lawyer, for violating a lawyers' conduct code that forbids parties in a dispute from having private discussions with judges about pending matters.
If the commission finds a violation, sanctions can range from a public reprimand to disbarment.
Republicans also have filed ethics complaints against the four senators and against Sen. Robert R. Neall, Anne Arundel County Democrat. Mr. Neall sent a letter to retired Judge Robert Karwacki, who was appointed to oversee challenges to the reapportionment plan and make recommendations to the court.
Mr. Neall's letter, dated May 3, asks Judge Karwacki to return a Crofton precinct with 2,900 residents from a new, mostly Prince George's district back to the Anne Arundel district he represents.
Such a change would not appear to help Mr. Neall, who became a Democrat after the 1998 election, because the precinct has more Republicans than Democrats.



Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide