Supreme Court Unseals Additional Documents in Case

By: Associated Press Email
By: Associated Press Email
The Florida Supreme Court is unsealing additional documents related to ongoing lawsuits challenging how legislators drew legislative and congressional districts.

MGN Online

News Release: Associated Press
December 9, 2014

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- The Florida Supreme Court is unsealing additional documents related to ongoing lawsuits challenging how legislators drew legislative and congressional districts.

The high court on Monday released an email exchange between a Florida-based Republican consultant and a national GOP consultant over changes to the state Senate maps. Florida consultant Rich Heffley is congratulated in the two-year-old email for helping guide the drawing of the new map because it will limit Democratic gains during the 2012 election.

National Republican groups tried to keep the email from being disclosed but they were unsuccessful.

Last month the Supreme Court released hundreds of pages of documents and emails belonging to a Gainesville-based political consultant.

Sen. Don Gaetz on Monday asserted that despite the email Heffley did not play a role in drawing new districts.


News Release: Associated Press
November 25, 2014

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- The Florida Supreme Court is poised to unseal documents and a still-secret transcript from this summer's trial over congressional districts.

The court is giving lawyers for Republican consultants until noon on Tuesday to explain why 538 pages related to redistricting should not be released to the public. All seven justices said they were prepared to release them by 3 p.m. Tuesday.

The state Supreme Court initially planned to release the documents on Dec. 1. But the high court noted U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas late last week turned down an emergency request to block their release. Additionally, media outlets obtained the documents over the weekend and published them.

The documents were key evidence cited by a judge when he ruled Florida's congressional map violated state law.


News Release: Associated Press
November 13, 2014

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- The Florida Supreme Court is ordering the public release of evidence that was used in a landmark redistricting trial.

The court on Thursday unanimously ordered that emails and documents, as well as transcript from a closed portion of the trial, be unsealed. The ruling was unanimous.

Justices rejected arguments from Republican political consultants who argued they had constitutional rights to keep the documents private. The documents were reviewed by a judge but have not been made public.

Groups challenging Florida's congressional map sought the documents in an effort to show that outside consultants helped the GOP-controlled Legislature to draw up new districts in violation of amendments passed by voters.

The Fair Districts amendments say legislators cannot draw districts that favor any political party or incumbents.


News Release: Associated Press
October 2, 2014

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- A divided appeals court wants the Florida Supreme Court to decide if the state's new congressional map is legal.

The 1st District Court of Appeal on Wednesday ruled to send the case up to the state's highest court immediately instead of letting the appeals court review it. The ruling was decided 2-1 with one judge dissenting.

A Florida judge approved a new congressional map in August. The new map alters seven of the state's existing 27 districts, but the changes will not take effect this year.

Voters in 2010 passed an amendment that says legislators cannot draw up districts to favor incumbents or a political party. A circuit judge in July ruled that two districts were invalid so legislators changed them.

A coalition of groups has challenged the maps.


News Release: Associated Press
September 19, 2014

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- A lawyer representing a Republican consultant clashed with Florida Supreme Court justices over secret evidence used in the state's landmark trial on redistricting.

The high court is deciding whether emails and documents taken from a Gainesville political consulting firm should have been used in the case.

A judge earlier this year ruled that state legislators broke the law in 2012 when drawing up a new map for Congress. The evidence was heard at the trial, but it was kept from the public.

Attorney Kent Safriet argued his clients have First Amendment rights that lets them keep their political activities private.

But some justices questioned why the firm's attorneys did not make that claim until after a lower court judge had ruled they needed to turn over the documents.


Update: Associated Press
September 19, 2014

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- The Florida Supreme Court is holding a hearing on whether secret evidence should have been used in a landmark trial on redistricting.

A judge earlier this year ruled that state legislators broke the law in 2012 when drawing up a new map for Congress. Part of that decision was based on emails and documents taken from a Gainesville political consulting firm.

The evidence was heard at the trial, but it was kept from the public under a previous court order.

The Supreme Court on Friday is scheduled to hear arguments on whether the evidence should have been allowed in the trial and whether it should remain secret.

The firm Data Targeting and its employees maintain that disclosure of emails and other documents will violate trade secrets and First Amendment rights.


News Release: Associated Press
August 20, 2014

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- A Florida judge is going to review a new congressional map approved by the state Legislature.

Circuit Judge Terry Lewis is scheduled to hear arguments Wednesday on whether the map approved last week by legislators is constitutional. Lewis earlier this summer ruled that congressional districts drawn up in 2012 were illegal because they were drawn to benefit Republicans.

The Legislature passed a new map that alters seven out of 27 congressional districts. But the groups that challenged the current districts maintain the revised version is still "brazenly partisan."

Voters in 2010 passed the "Fair Districts" amendment that says legislators cannot draw up districts to favor incumbents or a political party, a practice known as gerrymandering.

Republican legislative leaders maintain the new map is constitutional.


Update: Associated Press
August 18, 2014

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- A coalition suing to change Florida's congressional districts is asking a judge to reject a newly proposed map.

The Florida Legislature last week passed a new map that alters seven of 27 congressional districts. Lawmakers adopted the new map after Judge Terry Lewis ruled the current congressional map was drawn to benefit Republicans.

But the League of Women Voters of Florida and other groups on Monday filed court papers maintaining the new map is "brazenly partisan" and was adopted in a partisan process. They want Lewis to impose his own map.

The group maintains that the sprawling district held by U.S. Rep. Corinne Brown is still being packed with Democrats in order to aid Republicans.

The coalition also maintains there is still time to implement the new map this year.


News Release: Associated Press
August 15, 2014

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Florida's top election official is recommending that the state hold special elections for Congress next year, even though that may violate federal law.

Secretary of State Ken Detzner on Friday filed a proposed special election schedule.

Circuit Judge Terry Lewis asked for the schedule at the same time that he ordered state legislators to draw up a new congressional map. The Legislature adopted a new map earlier this week.

Detzner's court filing said if Lewis orders a special election, the primary should be held in March and the general election in May. But the filing adds that such a schedule would likely violate a federal law that requires two-year terms for members of Congress.

Lewis will hold a hearing next week on both the new map and the proposed schedule.


Update: Associated Press
August 14, 2014

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Florida Gov. Rick Scott is signing off on new maps that will alter several congressional districts.

Scott on Wednesday signed into law a new map approved by the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature.

The map will be presented to a Florida judge who ruled that the state's current map included districts that were illegally drawn to help the GOP.

Judge Terry Lewis had given legislators until Aug. 15 to come up with a valid map.

The new map approved this week reshapes the boundaries of seven of the state's 27 congressional districts.

But the groups that sued the Legislature say they will ask Lewis to reject it.

League of Women Voters of Florida President Deirdre Macnab said that the new map "looks suspiciously" like the previous one that was ruled unconstitutional.


Update: Associated Press
August 11, 2014

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- The state Legislature has approved a new map for Florida's congressional districts after a judge ruled that the former districts were drawn illegally to benefit Republicans.

The Republican-controlled Legislature on Monday voted largely along partisan lines to approve a new map that alters seven of the state's 27 congressional districts.

The changes would make two seats slightly more competitive for Democrats. But it's not certain the new districts will change Florida's congressional delegation. Republicans currently hold a 17-10 edge.

Legislators held a three-day special session to fix the congressional map after a judge ruled that two districts were drawn illegally. Judge Terry Lewis gave legislators until this Friday to draw a new map.

The new districts may not be in place before the 2016 elections.


News Release: Associated Press
August 10, 2014

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Florida legislators are poised to approve new maps for Congress.

The Republican-controlled Florida Legislature could vote as soon as Monday to change seven of the state's 27 congressional districts.

Legislators are holding a special session after a judge ruled in July that two districts were drawn illegally to benefit Republicans. Circuit Judge Terry Lewis earlier this month gave legislators until Aug. 15 to draw a new map.

The map drawn up by Republicans would alter seven districts in north and central Florida. Democrats have drawn up an alternative plan that would only alter three districts.

It's not clear right now if the new districts will be put in place before the 2016 elections. That could depend on whether Lewis decides to call a special election for later this year.


News Release: Associated Press
August 8, 2014

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Florida lawmakers are one step closer to approving a proposal that would make slight changes to seven congressional districts to comply with a court order.

House and Senate committees approved Friday the new map altering the districts, which stretch from central to northeast Florida.

The full Legislature is expected to vote on the maps next week.

Leon County Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis ruled recently the original maps passed by legislators in 2012 were intended to benefit Republicans, in violation of a measure passed by voters in 2010.

Lewis has given lawmakers until next Friday to adopt new districts. He will hold a hearing Aug. 20 to decide whether to hold a special election after November's general election.


News Release: Associated Press
August 8, 2014

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Florida legislators are going to vote on a proposal to tweak and alter seven of the state's 27 congressional districts.

The Florida Legislature is holding a special session to draw up a new map in order to comply with a judge's ruling.

House and Senate committees are scheduled to vote Friday on a new map that would make changes to a handful of districts located in north and central Florida.

The session is being sparked by a judge's July ruling that found two districts were drawn illegally to benefit Republicans. Circuit Judge Terry Lewis last week gave legislators until Aug. 15 to draw up a new map.

Voters in 2010 passed the "Fair Districts" amendment that says legislators cannot draw up districts to favor incumbents or a political party.


News Release: Associated Press
August 7, 2014

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Florida lawmakers are kicking off a special session to draw a new map for the state's 27 congressional districts.

The session started at noon on Thursday and could run for nine days although there are signs that the Republican-controlled Legislature could wrap it up sooner.

The session is being sparked by a judge's July ruling that found two districts were drawn illegally to benefit Republicans. Circuit Judge Terry Lewis last week gave legislators until Aug. 15 to draw up a new map.

That map will focus primarily on the two districts flagged by the judge: A sprawling district that runs from Jacksonville to Orlando held by U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown and a central Florida district held by U.S. Rep. Dan Webster.


Update: Associated Press
August 4, 2014

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Florida legislators will hold a nine-day special session to redraw the state's 27 congressional districts.

Legislative leaders made it official on Monday. The session begins Thursday at noon.

Senate President Don Gaetz said legislators will draw a new map that fixes two districts that a judge declared invalid. One district stretches from Jacksonville to Orlando, while the other is a central Florida district.

Gaetz said in a statement that the new congressional map should have "minimal impact" on districts outside those areas.

A Florida circuit judge in July declared the state's current congressional map illegal because two districts have been drawn to benefit Republicans in violation of anti-gerrymandering laws.

Judge Terry Lewis last week ordered legislators to draw up a replacement map by Aug. 15


News Release: Associated Press
August 4, 2014

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Florida's legislative leaders are deciding that after a protracted legal battle over the state's 27 congressional districts they will draw a new map.

The big question remains, however, when will voters starting using it.

House Speaker Will Weatherford told legislators late Sunday the Legislature will convene a special session Thursday to address "limited concerns" raised by a Florida judge over the existing districts.

Circuit Judge Terry Lewis sparked the move after ruling Friday that legislators had until Aug. 15 to give him a new map. Lewis ruled in July that the current districts are invalid.

Voters in Florida, however, are scheduled to start early voting later this month.

Weatherford said that while legislators will pass a new map they'll fight to keep from implementing it right away.


News Release: Associated Press
August 1, 2014

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- A Florida judge is ordering legislators to hold a special session to draw up a new congressional map for the state.

Circuit Judge Terry Lewis on Friday ruled that the Florida Legislature must draw up new congressional districts by Aug. 15. Lewis said that he will then order a special election later this year for those new districts.

Legislative leaders had wanted to keep in place the state's current districts until after the 2014 elections. Lewis has already previously ruled the current districts are illegal because they were drawn to benefit the Republican Party.

Voters in 2010 passed the "Fair Districts" amendment that says legislators cannot draw up districts to favor incumbents or a political party.


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