A coalition of voters challenging Florida's congressional maps filed an emergency petition in the Florida Supreme Court Friday, asking the court to allow documents from political operatives who advised legislators to become part of the ongoing redistricting trial.
The court has given respondents until 3:30 p.m. to reply. Download SC14-987
The First District Court of Appeal ruled Thursday that 538 pages of maps, emails and memos are confidential “trade secrets” that may not be entered as evidence in the trial that is now in its fifth day in circuit court in Leon County. As a result, portions of the appeal and the attachments will remain under seal, attorneys said.
The ruling was a setback to League of Women Voters and seven Florida voters who are suing the state for violating the law that prohibits legislators from protecting political parties and incumbents when redistricting the state’s congressional boundaries. Download Motion to expedite briefing (00087321)
The plaintiffs have spent the first four days of the trial arguing that “legislators and staffers collaborated” with political operative Pat Bainter, of Data Targeting, and other partisan operatives “to conduct a separate redistricting process that was not only apart from the public process — but actually perverted the public process itself.”
They said in their motion that they want the Supreme Court to act quickly because "if the Court does not grant interim relief, it will lose the ability to grant the Plaintiffs the primary remedy they seek in this litigation—the redrawing of congressional districts before the 2014 election."
Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis had ordered Bainter to turn over thousands of documents and said that 538 pages could be entered as evidence in the trial. But Bainter’s lawyers, who are being paid by the Republican Party of Florida, said the release of the documents would result in irreparable harm.
Bainter appealed Lewis’ ruling, claiming he had a First Amendment privilege not to release what he considered proprietary information. The appeals court agreed.
The three judges who signed the ruling, Joseph Lewis, Simone Marstiller and Scott Makar, were each appointed by Republican governors — Jeb Bush, Charlie Crist and Rick Scott.
The ruling came on the fourth day of the landmark trial in Leon County in which plaintiffs have been trying to show that legislators violated the constitutional redistricting rules by allowing Republican consultants to coordinate map-making and “undermine the public redistricting process.”