Faced with subpoenas for information in a second redistricting lawsuit, the Florida Senate is offering to reimburse 21 senators up to $5000 to allow them to hire private lawyers to defend themselves in public records requests.
The $105,000 allocation is on top of the more than $1 million taxpayers are already paying to defend the Senate in redistricting challenges brought by the League of Women Voters, and a group of Democrat-allied citizens, which challenged the congressional plan and are awaiting trial on a lawsuit challenging the Senate map.
There are 8 Democrats and 13 Republicans who have been subpoenaed in the case and 28 districts are under dispute by the plaintiffs.
The trial is set for September in Leon County Circuit Court and and lawyers for the plaintiffs are asking for all documents, including emails and proposed maps, related to the Senate’s maps in the case.
"It's curious that when we made public records requests for these documents they need to get lawyers,'' said David King, lawyer for the plaintiffs.
The email correspondence has been pivotal to the plaintiffs in the case, after legislators testified in court last year that they destroyed correspondence relating to redistricting as part of their routine email purges. After the plaintiffs obtained email correspondence from political operatives, the trial court judge in the case concluded that political operatives had “infiltrated” the redistricting process with the intent to influence it to benefit Republicans.
The plaintiffs have requested the same documents from the Senate’s lawyers as they have asked from legislators individually, said Lisa Hall, spokeswoman for the coalition that is challenging the Senate map.
Sen. David Simmons, R-Maitland, a lawyer, said he has asked his law partner to represent him in the case. "I got nothing to hide about any of this,'' he said. "I had no conversations with any operatives…everything I’ve got on this is my emails that I would have sent to staff and people are welcome to see those."
Here’s the May 1 note from Senate general counsel George Levesque to the 21 senators: Download 2015 05 01_Memo re Legal Representation (2)