Colorado Supreme Court upholds Denver District Court Judge Robert Hyatt’s ruling on Colorado Congressional Redistricting
In a surprisingly rapid decision following last Thursday’s oral arguments in challenges to a Democrat-drawn Congressional Redistricting map previously approved by Denver District Court Judge Robert Hyatt, the Colorado Supreme Court announced in a court order issued Monday morning (5 December) that it affirmed Hyatt’s ruling in the lower court and the ‘Moreno South Map’ establishes the boundaries of Colorado’s Congressional districts for the next decade.
(New Democrat redistricting map – statewide)
(UPDATE: the Denver Post has created a “find your congressional district” application)
The Colorado Supreme Court’s ruling, although disappointing to Colorado Republicans (particularly the residents of Douglas and Larimer counties) hardly comes as a surprise – Colorado Democrats carefully prepared the conditions for their victory on Congressional Redistricting as part of a long-standing strategy of sending the decision to the courts, where they have traditionally enjoyed a friendly venue.
Even before reprising the 2000 legislative session playbook by blocking passage of (constitutionally required) Congressional Redistricting legislation in the Colorado state senate, the more strategically-savvy Democrat leadership set the conditions for their eventual court victory by enabling judicial consideration of “non-neutral” political factors (and removing guidelines establishing a hierarchy of neutral criteria) in the “Mary-mandering” legislation passed at the close of the 2010 legislative session – allowing Denver District Court Judge Robert Hyatt room for extensive discretion (i.e. exercising his own personal preferences) in ruling for the ‘Moreno Map’:
The General Assembly amended this statute in 2010 to repeal the statutory prohibition, adopted in 2004, against the use of political data such as party registration and so-called “political performance” data. (Ruling at 43)
Despite having copious advance notice of Democrat intentions in regard to Congressional Redistricting strategy, Republican “leadership” was caught flat-footed and “steamrollered” in the courts:
Republicans may not even be able to decry the Colorado Supreme Court’s ruling as purely partisan (contrasting with the situation in the 2003 Salazar v. Davidson congressional redistricting case) or an example of unmitigated judicial activism, since the statutory changes (enabling consideration of purely political factors by the courts) and selective use of testimony may have provided sufficient legal “cover” for the court’s ruling majority to affirm the lower court’s ruling – aside from that pesky constitutional provision (Article V, Section 44) mandating Congressional Redistricting as a legislative, not judicial, responsibility in the first place.
Final judgment on the legal merits of the Colorado Supreme Court’s decision in this case (along with knowing the vote count) will have to wait, pending release and review of the actual written ruling (expected in the coming weeks).
In any event, the boundaries of Colorado’s Congressional districts are now set for the next decade – there is no further appeal from the Colorado Supreme Court’s ruling in this case.
Irrespective of one’s preferences on the congressional district maps, the negative repercussions of manipulating the redistricting process to impose an outcome via the courts are severely damaging to public confidence in our institutions of state government – both legislative and judicial. Legislative abdication of constitutionally-mandated responsibilities reinforces public perception of politicians as feckless and irresponsible (not without reason).
Perhaps more importantly, the intentional politicization of the judiciary – increasingly seen as acting as just another category of politician, distinguished from the other branches only by a unique mode of dress (black robes) – is corrosive to our institutions, and undermines the sanctity of the rule of law.
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.
Ultimately, though – it’s worth the effort.