Republicans Lose California Redistricting Dispute

Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye
Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye

A Republican group lost its effort to put new state senate districts on hold and the lost in the California Supreme Court, which has a 6-1 Republican-appointee majority.

The high court Friday said the lines drawn by a new citizens’ commission must be used in the 2012 elections in June and November. 

The Republican group had asked the state Supreme Court to put the newly drawn districts on hold until voters have a chance to sound off on a call to repeal them in November.  The court’s vote was unanimous.  Only Justice Goodwin Liu, the lone Democrat appointee, expressed concern that the language of the ruling may have “the unintended consequence of inviting future litigants to bring their grievances with redistricting to the court.”

The Citizens Redistricting Commission was created by state voters in 2008 to move the state away from partisan district line-drawing.

District lines for state Senate, Assembly and for congressional districts are redrawn once a decade to adjust for population changes.  The newly created citizen commission was required to include city and county boundaries and preserve “communities of interest” when possible.

Senate maps were adopted in August and a Republican challenge sought signatures for a November referendum.  It requires 504,000 valid signatures to go on the ballot.  Although 710,000 have been submitted many may not qualify so it won’t be known until Feb. 24 whether the referendum has enough qualified signatures to make  it on the ballot.

Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, who wrote the opinion, said that even if the Republican challenge qualifies for the November ballot, “the commission’s certified map is clearly the most appropriate map to be used in the 2012 state Senate elections.”

Cantil-Sakauye was appointed by former Gov. Schwarzenegger at the end of his term.

Liu had been President Barack Obama’s pick for the federal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals but was repeatedly blocked by Republicans.

Gov. Jerry Brown then made Liu his first appointment to the state’s high court.

Liu opened his separate opinion by calling for judicial restraint and quoted former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter saying that the courts “ought not to enter this political thicket.”

Other coverage can be seen at the San Francisco Chronicle, the Los Angeles Times and the Sacramento Bee.

 Case:  Vandermost v. Bowen,  No.  S198387

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