State Supreme Court set to rehear redistricting case
This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 10, 2012 - The Missouri Supreme Court is set once again to hear the dispute over the state's redrawn boundary lines for the remaining eight congressional districts.
Both sides will make their case before the court next Thursday, with a ruling expected to be issued swiftly -- especially since candidate filing is slated to begin Feb. 28.
As with the Supreme Court's earlier hearing on the case last month, three of the seven judges have recused themselves on undisclosed grounds. They are being replaced by appeals court judges, current and retired.
This hearing is in response to a lower-court judge's ruling earlier this month in favor of the map drawn up by the Missouri General Assembly last spring. Legislators then overrode Gov. Jay Nixon's veto.
Cole County Judge Daniel Green had ruled on the matter because the Supreme Court previously had ordered a trial after he initially had tossed out the case.
Democrats in St. Louis have joined forces with Republicans in Kansas City to contest the map, which the critics contend intentionally dilutes the clout of the state's two largest urban areas to benefit the state's rural areas.
Lawyers for the two urban camps also contend that at least two of the new districts -- the 3rd and the 5th -- were drawn in such a way that they violate the state constitution's mandate that congressional districts be as "compact as may be."
Lawyers with Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster's office contend that the map does meet the compactness test. They are supported by attorneys representing two of the chief legislative architects -- state Sen. Scott Rupp, R-Wentzville, and state Rep. John Diehl, R-Town and Country.
U.S. Rep. Russ Carnahan, D-St. Louis, is hinging his political future on the outcome of the court fight because his 3rd District was dismantled by the Republican-controlled House and Senate as part of an acknowledged move to protect the state's six incumbent Republicans in the U.S. House.
The new 3rd is made up largely of the old 9th District, represented by Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-St. Elizabeth. It stretches from central Missouri into parts of St. Louis' suburbs.
Carnahan's residence was tossed into the 1st District of U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-St. Louis. Clay is siding with the Republicans who drew up the map. A lawyer acting on Clay's behalf has filed a brief with the Supreme Court defending it.
If the opponents fail in their legal quest to force the drawing of a new map, many political activists predict that Carnahan will challenge Clay in this summer's Democratic primary.