Nevada Supreme Court Refuses Emergency Consideration Of Redistricting Issues

CARSON CITY – The Nevada Supreme Court today rejected an emergency request by Secretary of State Ross Miller to consider issues regarding the recent decision on the redrawing of the state’s political boundaries by Carson City District Judge James Todd Russell.

Miller asked the court to take up issues that he said Russell failed to address before issuing his ruling, including the propriety of considering the concept of “representational fairness,” before deciding last month to accept the redistricting maps drawn up by a panel of special masters with a few minor modification.

Secretary of State Ross Miller. / Nevada News Bureau.

Republicans opposing Miller’s request argued: “Any party remains free to appeal the district court’s order on the grounds that the redistricting maps are unlawful, that the court erred as a matter of law, or that the court otherwise abused its discretion.”

Mark Hutchison, the attorney representing the Republican Party in the redistricting dispute, argued in hearings in Russell’s court that representational fairness was a valid concept to consider in drawing the political lines.

Russell on Oct. 27 issued an order finalizing the political boundaries for four congressional seats and 63 legislative seats drawn by the three court-appointed special masters. In his earlier order directing the panel to draw the political lines, Russell said it could consider the issue of representational fairness, a concept where some deference is given to the relative strength of the two major political parties.

In practical terms, “representational fairness”, would allow consideration of how many “safe” seats each political party should have in any set of redistricting maps.

But in a brief order issued today denying the emergency petition, the Nevada Supreme Court said any concerns about Russell’s redistricting order can be raised in the normal course of any appeal.

“Piecemeal consideration of limited redistricting issues would be imprudent given the existence of a final order by the district court and the special timing concerns for the 2012 election,” the court said. “Accordingly, petitioner has an adequate remedy in the form of an appeal from the district court’s final judgment that precludes writ relief.”

The court also vacated a Nov. 14 oral argument to consider other issues raised in Miller’s petition, including whether it is the responsibility of the Legislature, not the courts, to determine the state’s political boundaries.

The Supreme Court earlier rejected a request by Miller to halt the redistricting proceedings in Russell’s court.

In response to the court’s ruling today, Miller said: “Throughout this process, our overriding concern has been the completion of redistricting maps in a manner that would not threaten the 2012 election timeline.

“I want to thank the Nevada Supreme Court for setting an expedited briefing schedule regarding the writ, and demonstrating to the local court the need for alacrity.

“The Supreme Court’s briefing schedule motivated the District Court to move up its hearing on proposed maps to October 27th instead of November 16th, avoiding the local judge’s original timeline which would have jeopardized the 2012 election schedule.”

So far no appeal has been filed in regard to Russell’s redistricting decision.