Winners in redistricting case fighting in court for state to pay their attorney fees

06/14/2012 04:53 PM

To the winners go the spoils, at least that’s the argument of attorneys of lawmakers who successfully challenged state legislative redistricting maps this spring.

Lawyers for House Republican and Senate Democratic leaders who won their legal arguments against the proposed House and Senate maps this spring want the legislative branch to cover their fees.

They have been in court over the last three weeks arguing over that — even as those same legislative leaders objected to taxpayers covering the cost of the legislative branch’s lawyer fees yesterday.

At issue is more than $200,000 in attorneys fees from both sides.

In February, House Republicans and Senate Democrats challenged in court the new district maps that a majority of House members and senators voted to approve in January. Those maps were drawn as a result of the 2010 U.S. Census to ensure roughly equal populations in each Kentucky state Senate and House district.

Lawmakers in the minority caucuses — including House Republican Floor Leader Jeff Hoover — argued that the maps were unconstitutional for several reasons. That included that at least one state House and Senate district had populations greater than 5 percent more than the ideal district and that the maps split too many counties.

Eventually, the Kentucky Supreme Court agreed and threw out the maps.

At the time, Hoover told the Lexington Herald-Leader that he expected total lawyer bills of $75,000 and that he would be “asking people to help, including friends of members who are going to be adversely affected by the changes in district lines.”

Now attorneys for those who filed the challenge want the government to pay their fees. They argued that to Franklin Circuit Judge Phil Shepherd in a hearing May 30.

Lawyers for the Legislative Research Commission responded that the state shouldn’t pick up the tab because the lawyers for Hoover and the others built their case on the notion that the maps divided up too many counties and the Supreme Court built its decision more on the need for equal populations. So even though Hoover and the others got the outcome they wanted, it was for a different reason, wrote the Legislative Research Commission’s general counsel Laura Hendrix.

“The plaintiff should not be awarded their attorney fees for accomplishing that result, which certainly does not further the purpose of population equality of representation,” Hendrix and outside counsel Sheryl Snyder wrote in a June 11 court filing.

Victor Maddox, one of the attorneys for the House Republicans, wrote in a June 13 filing that federal laws and court precedent show that they are entitled to have the state cover their fees because their successful challenge prevented Kentucky from having flawed districts.

“The unconstitutional districts would likely be in effect today as the attorney general never showed the slightest interest,” Maddox wrote. “An award of fees is plainly appropriate.”

At the same, however, two other Republican House leaders and three Senate Democratic minority leaders voted Wednesday against approving the legislative branch’s payment of $45,000 to Snyder for his work as an outside lawyer for the LRC on this case.

In addition, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes and the state board of elections — which were codefendants in the redistricting case — have paid outside law firms $57,500 for their work on the issue, according to state contract documents.

All this wouldn’t have happened in the first place if the House Democratic majority hadn’t approved such a “blatantly unconstitutional” map, said Michael Goins, spokesman for Hoover.

- Written by Ryan Alessi with reporting by Nick Storm and Don Weber from Franklin Circuit Court.


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