Colorado Supreme Court considers appeal of Denver District Court ruling on Congressional Redistricting

The Colorado Supreme Court granted certioriari Thursday, 17 November (agreed to hear the appeal) on a challenge to Denver District Court Judge Robert Hyatt’s ruling on Colorado Congressional redistricting.  The appeal, led by Douglas County and joined by the Republican petitioners (one from each of the state’s seven congressional districts) in the original case, is proceeding on an accelerated schedule culminating in oral arguments (open to the public) on 1 December starting at 11:15 AM in the Old Supreme Court Chambers of the Colorado Capitol, 200 E. Colfax Avenue, Second Floor, Denver 80203)

Opening briefs from the petitioners (appellants) are due to the Colorado Supreme Court on Wednesday, 23 November; response briefs are due to the court on Monday, 28 November (so much for a happy Thanksgiving weekend for the lawyers).

Next Thursday’s (1 December) oral arguments before the Colorado Supreme Court, in which each side will have 30 minutes to make their case, will be recorded and posted online shortly after the hearing.

Arguments in the case are likely to revolve around the issue of whether the lower court properly adhered to Colorado constitutional and statutory guidelines governing redistricting, in particular the requirement to maintain county integrity where possible

Except when necessary to meet the equal population requirements of section 46, no part of one county shall be added to all or part of another county in forming districts. Article V, Section 47(2)

and “preservation of political subdivisions such as counties, cities, and towns.” [C.R.S. 2-1-102(1)(b)]

Douglas County is also challenging Judge Hyatt’s assertion that Douglas County is more properly within a “community of interest” with the Eastern Plains (putting Castle Rock and Park Meadows shopping mall in the same district as Wray, Burlington, and Lamar).  [Ed. an observer wryly noted that Douglas County doesn’t even have a Burlington Coat Factory location, much less strong ‘agricultural’ ties to the plains]

Finally, petitioners are likely to challenge the notion of “competitiveness” as a basis for defining congressional district boundaries, cited by Judge Hyatt in support of his decision to split some counties (Douglas, Adams, Arapahoe, and Eagle) and not others. (Ruling at 43)

It must be noted that ”competitiveness” is a political argument, NOT a legal or constitutional argument (since there is neither a clear definition, nor constitutional requirement, for “competitiveness”), and as such has no place in a court ruling on the constitutional or legal merits of the maps.

Given the Colorado Supreme Court’s rejection of “competitiveness” as a factor taking precedent over clear constitutional and statutory guidelines in remanding state legislative district maps back to the Colorado Reapportionment Commission for corrections and revisions, it would be utterly inconsistent of the court to reject “competitiveness” as a primary factor in state legislative redistricting while upholding the notion for Colorado’s Congressional districts.

Sadly, the entire spectacle of judicial imposition of a political solution to Colorado’s Congressional District representation could have been prevented had the state legislature carried out their constitutionally-mandated responsibility to pass redistricting legislation instead of sending it to the courts last Spring.

Congressional District Google Earth maps (requires Google Earth download): Moreno/South Map (Google Earth)

Additional references:

  • Constitutional Provisions Controlling Reapportionment/Redistricting (official Colorado state website, which collates relevant constitutional language on Congressional redistricting and state legislative reapportionment)
  • Redistricting in Colorado (Ballotpedia site – although the site contains several errors, some of which are being corrected, it does provide useful context and historical background on past restricting battles.  As with any Wiki site – contributions come from a variety of sources and are frequently edited – proceed with some skepticism)

Clear The Bench Colorado will, with your support, continue to promote transparency and accountability in the Colorado judiciary, informing the public to increase awareness of the substantial public policy implications of an unrestrained activism and political agendas in the courts.  We will continue to work to educate voters and provide information of relevance related to the judicial branch, and to provide useful and substantive evaluations of judicial performance.

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Ultimately, though – it’s worth the effort.

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