It should come as no surprise to those following the Reapportionment Commission saga that attorney’s for the Republicans and Democrats submitted briefs to the state Supreme Court Wednesday afternoon calling for two totally different solutions to the problem.
Ross Garber, a partner in Shipman & Goodwin who is representing the Republicans in court, asked for a special master to be appointed to help the nine-member commission work out its differences. Aaron Bayer, a partner in Wiggin & Dana who is representing the Democrats, asked the court to consider the maps already offered and hear arguments on them before drawing its own conclusion.
Garber argued that when facing similar problems Connecticut courts, which are reluctant to get involved in politics, have often appointed special masters.
“Courts have noted that devising a politically fair plan that complies with all of the diverse legal mandates and principles, and completing such a plan in a matter of weeks, can be a ‘Herculean task’ given the large quantities of data and multiple analytic parameters involved,” Garber says in his brief.
In 1964 the U.S. District Court for Connecticut appointed a special master to develop a plan for redistricting the state Senate and reapportioning the House, if the General Assembly failed to do it. At that time, the Director of Yale University’s computer center was appointed as the special master, Garber says in his brief.
In 1971 when the General Assembly failed to adopt a plan upholding the constitutional requirements another special master was appointed, Garber added.
Republicans also suggested a timeline for the court to follow. The brief suggests setting Dec. 28 as a deadline to suggest potential special masters to the court, appointing a special master by Jan. 6, and setting a Feb. 1 deadline for the special masters recommendations to the court. The process must by completed by Feb. 15.
Democrats on the other hand believe the court should take it upon themselves to draw the political lines after hearing both sides of the debate.
In a brief submitted to the court Wednesday, Bayer argues the parties should be able to petition the court directly without a special master.
“The purpose of having the Supreme Court directly hear redistricting petitions and of setting a firm, short deadline for the Court to adopt a plan if the political process fails, was to avoid litigation-based delays and ensure that a lawful plan was in place in time for the elections,” Bayer wrote in his brief.
He said there is no provision for “legislative-like hearings or trial-like fact-finding,” or “a multi-staged process with a special master devising a new plan and report, followed by briefing and argument.”
“In every redistricting cycle, political negotiations are difficult,” Bayer wrote. “If the result of failing to reach agreement is that this Court will, in essence, create an alternative redistricting process and forum for the parties to pursue their political goals, the incentives driving them to reach agreement in the political process will be diminished.”
The Democrats also suggested a timeline for the court to consider.
By Dec. 31 the parties will submit briefs to the court, by Jan. 6 the parties will submit their maps, and by Jan. 27 the court will hear oral arguments.
Democrats maintain there’s no need to change the existing structure of the districts and argue all the hard work was done 10 years ago when the state had to eliminate one of its then six congressional districts.
At that time the congressional districts were evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. This year all five congressional seats are held by Democrats and Republicans like their chances with the court since they have nothing to lose.
Click here to read more about the political back and forth that occurred after the commission missed its deadline.