Colorado Reapportionment Commission files new state legislative maps with Colorado Supreme Court; appeals on tight timeline

The Colorado Reapportionment Commission (charged with drawing our state legislative districts) officially submitted state legislative district maps rammed through on a party-line vote last week (6-5, with technically unaffiliated Chairman Mario Carrera joining the commission’s other Democrats) to the Colorado Supreme Court for review late Monday.

The Colorado Supreme Court, upon receiving the commission’s resubmitted maps, quickly announced filing deadlines for the inevitable legal challenges to the maps, proceeding this week on a very tight timeline (briefs are due to the court by this Thursday at 5PM):

Counsel and Parties to 11SA282 –  In Re Reapportionment of the Colorado General Assembly

The Reapportionment Commission has filed its Resubmitted Plan for Districts for the Senate and House of Representatives with the Court Today, December 5, 2011, in advance of the deadline set forth in the Court’s Order of November 15, 2011.

Accordingly, the Supreme Court has Ordered that the Simultaneous Briefs are now due from the Proponents and Objectors in this matter no later than Thursday, December 8, 2011 at 5:00 PM.  A copy of the order being mailed out today is attached for your perusal.

The court order was mailed out to each of the attorneys representing the eleven challenges to the commission’s previously submitted state legislative maps (the Colorado Supreme Court rejected the earlier maps and sent them back to the commission for a re-write).  Additional interested parties – either for or against the maps – may also “intervene” by filing briefs before the deadline as well.

Once receiving written briefs, the Colorado Supreme Court would normally schedule oral arguments; however, due to the extremely constrained timeline (by statute, final state legislative district maps are due to the Secretary of State for certification no later than next Wednesday, 14 December), the court could conceivably issue a decision based on the written briefs as early as Friday (9 December) or even over the weekend, in order to allow time for any necessary adjustments.

BOTTOM LINE:

The resubmitted maps retain a veritable plethora of constitutional deficiencies (in particular, failing to achieve the minimal splits in county lines, which was the primary rationale for the court’s rejection of the commission’s previous maps).  Municipal (city) splits were also multiplied, districts were not drawn to be as “compact and contiguous” as possible, and communities of interest were ignored or broken up. Additionally, the pairing of multiple incumbents into the same district raises additional constitutional issues – and one just-discovered “glitch” (“Glitch in new Colorado legislative map could unseat senator“) in the maps would result in “essentially airbrushing [State Senator Tim Neville] from the Senate after he serves next session.”

It would be absolutely inconsistent of a majority on the Colorado Supreme Court to approve the commission’s most recently resubmitted state legislative maps in light of these glaring constitutional deficiencies (not to mention the procedural farce by which these maps were rammed through the commission absent discussion, opportunity for amendments, public transparency, or even the inclusion of an official ‘Minority Report’ as has happened in the past).

Particularly given the more centrist makeup of the current Colorado Supreme Court (following the departure of former Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey & the more recent resignation of Justice Alex Martinez, replaced with Justices Monica Marquez and Brian Boatright, who just assumed his seat last week), the commission’s approval of a set of legislative maps seemingly designed “out of spite” and apparently “calculated to antagonize the court” may succeed in making history.

Additional references:

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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