Colorado Reapportionment Commission legislative district maps draw challenges, supporters before Colorado Supreme Court

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 accelerated filing deadlines for the inevitable legal challenges to the maps, putting appeals on a very tight timeline.  A total of eighteen groups filed briefs by the 5:00PM Thursday deadline (exceeding the dozen briefs, including eleven challenges, filed against the commission’s previously submitted mapsmaps ultimately rejected by the Colorado Supreme Court for failure to meet Colorado’s constitutional requirements).

Many of the same county and municipal governments that had challenged the commission’s previous maps did so again, on much the same grounds – emphasizing the repeated failure of the maps to meet the Colorado constitutional criteria of minimizing county and municipal splits, maintaining compact & contiguous districts, and preserving communities of interest. (Article V, Section 47)

Interestingly, a number of non-governmental special interest groups filed amicus curiae briefs in support of the commission’s maps – including representatives of the AFL-CIO, NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado, Planned Parenthood, Mi Familia Vota & “New Era Colorado” (a Boulder-based “progressive” group).

No county or city governments filed amicus curiae briefs in favor of the commission’s maps (one county, Garfield County, filed a “does not oppose” brief)

Briefs filed in Response to 12/5/11 Plan Resubmission (Opposing):

Briefs filed in Response to 12/5/11 Plan Resubmission (Does Not Oppose):

Briefs filed in Response to 12/5/11 Plan Resubmission (Supporting):

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 alone 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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