Colorado Supreme Court approves state legislative district maps resubmitted by Colorado Reapportionment Commission

The Colorado Supreme Court today approved the state legislative district maps re-submitted by the Colorado Reapportionment Commission last week (adopted in a procedurally suspect manner on a 6-5 party-line vote, with “unaffiliated” Chairman Mario Carrera joining the commission’s other Democrats).

The Colorado Supreme Court’s decision is surprising, since the court had previously rejected the commission’s earlier maps for constitutional deficiencies less stark than those exhibited by the commission’s re-submitted maps.

Given the constitutional deficiencies remaining in the Colorado Reapportionment Commission’s re-submitted maps, the procedural travesty by which the maps were adopted, and the availability of a more constitutionally-consistent alternative set of maps submitted as part of the ‘Minority Report’ appeal (which the majority commissioners had attempted to suppress), rejection of the commission’s maps – particularly given the court’s rejection of the commission’s previous set of constitutionally-deficient maps – appeared to be the only outcome consistent with constitutional and statutory criteria.

It will be interesting to analyze the reasoning by which a majority on the Colorado Supreme Court reached the conclusion that these maps were constitutionally valid once the court issues its full written opinion, which should follow within a week or so.

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.”

The ‘Minority Report’ challenge ably deconstructs the constitutional deficiencies of the commission’s re-submitted maps, and presents an alternative set of maps which better meet constitutional criteria (urging the adoption of the alternate maps by court order, per precedent established under similar circumstances several decades ago, as the best and most timely option).

The court’s decision is all the more surprising given the more centrist makeup of the current Colorado Supreme Court (following the departure of former Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey and the more recent resignation of Justice Alex Martinez, replaced with Justices Monica Marquez and Brian Boatright, who just assumed his seat last week), and in the face of a set of legislative maps that were seemingly designed “out of spite” and apparently “calculated to antagonize the court.

Unfortunately, it is possible that politics trumped law in this highly-charged case.

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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