- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 13, 2002

Republican officials defended Virginia Attorney General Jerry Kilgore's decision to appeal a Circuit Court ruling on Monday overturning the General Assembly's redistricting map, and are confident he will win.
"This case is much ado about nothing," said Delegate Winsome Earle Sears, Norfolk Republican. "[The redistricting lines] are fair, and it will stand up in court."
Gary Thomson, chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia, agreed.
"I am very confident in our ability to defend this case," Mr. Thomson said. An accountant, Mr. Thomson said all his legal advisers have said Mr. Kilgore, also a Republican, has the authority to appeal the decision.
On Monday, Roanoke County Circuit Judge Richard C. Pattisall ruled numerous district lines for the House and Senate were unconstitutional because he found them to be racially gerrymandered. He ordered the legislature to redraw the lines, and called for a special House election this November.
Mrs. Sears, a first-term black legislator, said she was not worried about a special election, but disagreed with the judge's logic. She said the Democrats did the same thing in 1980 and 1990, and when Republicans complained, their complaints were dismissed.
"When Democrats [redistrict], it's wonderful, but when Republicans do it and have the first chance to do it in 100 years, it's called gerrymandering," she said. "Our plan now is [constitutionally] better than any plan the Republicans challenged [in the past]."
Democrats, for the most part, were pleased with Judge Pattisall's decision. They said Mr. Kilgore has no legal authority to appeal the decision. The decision to appeal, they said, should rest with Gov. Mark R. Warner, a Democrat.
"The attorney general does not have the authority to appeal this case," said Delegate Clifton A. "Chip" Woodrum, Roanoke Democrat. "He has to consult with his client, and his client is the governor."
Larry Framme, chairman of the Democratic Party of Virginia, questioned how thoroughly the state's chief prosecutor read Judge Pattisall's 55-page decision. The decision was announced late Monday afternoon, and shortly afterward, Mr. Kilgore's office announced the appeal.
"I demand an investigation into whether or not his speed-reading courses were paid for by the state," Mr. Framme said.
Not all Democrats, however, want to see the House lines redrawn.
Delegate Lionell Spruill, Chesapeake Democrat, said he supports the attorney general.
"Ten years ago, the Democrats were in charge, and they did the same thing the Republicans did," said Mr. Spruill, whose district was one of the ones Judge Pattisall found to be unconstitutional. "The district that we have now was created by the Democrats, who were in charge all those years … I have no problem with the House seats, I am totally satisfied with those."
Tim Murtaugh, spokesman for Mr. Kilgore, said the state constitution gives the attorney general authority to appeal, and that those who disagree are "just wrong."
"He represents all agencies of government, including the General Assembly, and this bill was signed into law," Mr. Murtaugh said. "It is the attorney general's role and obligation to defend it from challenge."
Gov. Warner released a statement late yesterday afternoon cautioning the attorney general to not act too quickly.
"I am concerned that your office has announced that you intend to appeal the decision so swiftly, without consulting the office of the governor," Gov. Warner said. He added later, "The Court did not rush to judgment, and neither should the Commonwealth."
Republican lawmakers claimed Judge Pattisall acted in retaliation for being denied a reappointment when he overturned the redistricting plan on Monday.
"I am really and truly not surprised," said Mrs. Sears, whose district was also found to be unconstitutional. "One of the issues surrounding his appointment to this case was that he was not going to seek reappointment to the bench. Then he did, and he wasn't given it, and then we have this decision. It was a rush-rush thing."
Delegate Jay O'Brien, Fairfax Republican, agreed.
"The reason he was given the case was because he had expressed his neutrality, but there was a change in that regard," he said.
Delegate Jerrauld C. Jones, Norfolk Democrat, said criticism of the judge was "outrageous."
"If all they can do is attack personally [Judge Pattisall] and accuse the Virginia judiciary [of partisan politics], its a sad day in Virginia," he said. "And that's all they did, they did not attacks the merits."
Judge Pattisall was initially appointed to the case, brought on by Democrats, in June 2001. To counter Republican charges that the judge, who was active in Roanoke Democratic politics, would be biased because he was up for reappointment this year, Judge Pattisall announced his intention to retire at the end of his current term, on June 30.
In January, after changing his mind on retirement, Judge Pattisall withdrew his name from consideration for another eight-year term when it became clear he would not be favorably considered. At the time legislators had said they felt they were in a Catch-22. Republican lawmakers were named as defendants in the redistricting suit brought before Judge Pattisall on behalf of, among others, Democratic lawmakers.


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