Supreme Court Ruling Sought in Redistricting Fight

House and Senate lawyers want to go quickly to the Florida Supreme Court in a legal battle about whether key lawmakers and staff members should be required to give depositions about a congressional redistricting plan.

The lawyers filed a document late Monday at the 1st District Court of Appeal requesting that the dispute be passed through to the Supreme Court, rather than first receiving a ruling from the appellate court.

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The House and Senate last week launched the appeal after Leon County Circuit Judge J. Lee Marsh issued an order that said current and former lawmakers could be questioned in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the redistricting plan. The House and Senate have contended that lawmakers and staff members should be shielded from depositions by the legal concept of legislative privilege and what is known as the “apex doctrine.” That doctrine generally prevents depositions of high-ranking officials if information can be obtained in other ways.

In his Oct. 27 order, Marsh pointed to legal precedent that required lawmakers to testify in challenges to redistricting plans passed in 2012. In the document filed Monday, House and Senate lawyers indicated they will challenge the precedent.

“This appeal raises questions of great public importance that warrant immediate resolution by the Florida Supreme Court,” the document said. “Most importantly, the individual legislators and staff assert the legislative privilege and maintain that Apportionment IV (the ruling after the 2012 redistricting) was wrongly decided.

Only the Florida Supreme Court may recede from Apportionment IV. This (1st District) Court should certify the trial court’s order for immediate review under the Florida Supreme Court’s ‘pass-through’ jurisdiction.” Groups such as the League of Women Voters of Florida filed the lawsuit in April, alleging that the plan violates a 2010 constitutional amendment, known as a “Fair Districts” amendment, that set standards for redistricting. Gov. Ron DeSantis pushed the redistricting plan through the Legislature in April, and it helped Republicans add four congressional seats in the November elections.

Marsh’s order, if upheld on appeal, would allow plaintiffs’ lawyers to question former House Speaker Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor; former Sen. Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero; former Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach; Sen. Jennifer Bradley, R-Fleming Island; Rep. Tom Leek, R-Ormond Beach; Rep. Tyler Sirois, R-Merritt Island; and current and former staff members, including former House Chief of Staff Mat Bahl.


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