Ariz. Minority Coalition v. Ariz. Redistricting

Decision Date07 April 2005
Docket NumberNo. CIV.-040797-PHX-ROS.,CIV.-040797-PHX-ROS.
Citation366 F.Supp.2d 887
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Arizona

Paul F. Eckstein, Esq., Suzanne Renee Scheiner, Michael S. Mandell, Brown & Bain PA, Richard A. Halloran, Esq., David Daniel Weinzweig, Lewis & Roca LLP, Aaron Kizer, Esq., Law Office of Aaron Kizer PLC, Phoenix, AZ, Dana Lee Bobroff, Navajo Nation Department of Justice, Window Rock, AZ, Marvin S. Cohen, Esq., Judith M. Dworkin, Patricia Ferguson Bohnee, Sacks Tierney PA, Scottsdale, AZ, for Plaintiffs.

Lisa Tewksbury Hauser, Esq., Cameron Charles Artigue, Esq., Leonard W. Aragon, Gammage & Burnham PLC, Jose De Jesus Rivera, Esq., Haralson Miller Pitt Feldman & McAnally PLC, Mary Ruth O'Grady, Jessica Gifford Funkhouser, Esq., Office of the Attorney General, Phoenix, AZ, for Defendants.

Mark C. Dangerfield, Esq., Gallagher & Kennedy PA, David J. Cantelme, Esq., David Aaron Brown, Jennings Strouss & Salmon Plc Collier Ctr, Phoenix, AZ, Deborah Louise Herbert, Esq., Jeffrey David Dollins, Mohave County Attorneys Office, Kingman, AZ, Ronald C. Ramsey, Esq., John Donald Hickman, Bullhead City, AZ, Holly Jeanne Hawn, Martha Starr Chase, Santa Cruz County Attorney, Nogales, AZ, Ronald Marc Lehman, Esq., Gabroy Rollman & Bosse PC, Tucson, AZ, for Intervenors.


SILVER, District Judge.

This Amended Order corrects typographical errors in the Court's previous Order entered on March 1, 2005. On May 26, 2004, the Court issued an Order ruling on various pending motions in this action and promising that a written opinion would follow. This is that opinion. Pending before the Court were Plaintiffs' Request to Convene a Three-Judge Court, Application for Order to Show Cause, and Application for a Preliminary Injunction. Also pending was Defendant Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission's Motion to Dismiss. Because this dispute centered around state constitutional issues and because Plaintiffs' federal claims had no merit, the Court granted the Motion to Dismiss and denied the remaining Motions.1

I. Redistricting in Arizona

In November 2000, Arizona voters approved Proposition 106, an Arizona ballot measure that amended the Arizona Constitution to establish the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (the "IRC" or the "Commission"). (First Am. Compl. ¶ 21 [Doc. # 15].) Proposition 106 required the IRC to reapportion Arizona's legislative and congressional districts for the 2002 through 2010 elections according to specific redistricting criteria.2 (Id. ¶ 22.)

The IRC held a series of public hearings in the summer of 2001 and in November 2001 adopted a legislative redistricting plan for use in the 2002 legislative elections (the "2001 Legislative Plan"). (Id. ¶ 23.) The IRC submitted its new legislative plan to the Department of Justice ("DOJ") for preclearance on January 24, 2002.3 (Id. ¶ 24.) A preclearance decision from the DOJ, however, was not immediately forthcoming. (See id.) Once the DOJ received the submission, it had 60 days in which to object to or preclear the plan. (Id.) (citing 28 C.F.R. § 51.9(a) & (b).)

On March 2, 2002, the Arizona Minority Coalition for Fair Redistricting (the "Minority Coalition" or "Coalition") and several individual plaintiffs filed a complaint in Arizona state court alleging that the 2001 Legislative Plan violated the Arizona Constitution. (Id. ¶ 24.) In particular, the Minority Coalition alleged that the IRC failed to comply with its duty to create and maintain "competitive" districts. See Navajo Nation v. Arizona Indep. Redistricting Comm'n, 230 F.Supp.2d 998, 1002 (D.Ariz.2002) (discussing Minority Coalition's state court suit).

On May 1, 2002, because no time remained for a state court decision to affect the 2002 legislative elections and because the DOJ had not yet rendered its preclearance decision concerning the 2001 Legislative Plan, the IRC filed a complaint in this Court seeking to enjoin the use of preexisting 1994 legislative districts and to order the implementation of a redistricting plan on an interim basis for the 2002 legislative elections. (First Am. Compl. ¶ 27.) After extensive hearings and testimony, this Court found that the 1994 districts were severely malapportioned, enjoined their use, and adopted an interim legislative plan for use in the 2002 elections. See Navajo Nation, 230 F.Supp.2d at 1007-1016.

During the summer of 2002, the IRC again met to revise the legislative districts for the 2004 through 2010 elections. (Id. ¶ 35.) The IRC finalized a new legislative plan on August 14, 2002 (the "2002 Legislative Plan" or "2002 Plan") and submitted it to the DOJ for preclearance. (Id.) The DOJ precleared the Plan on February 10, 2003. (Id.) The Minority Coalition, however, remained unsatisfied with the new districts. It amended its complaint in state court and alleged that the IRC again failed to create competitive districts. (Id. ¶ 36.)

The Arizona Superior Court set a trial date of July 8, 2003. (Id. ¶ 38.) On May 30, 2003, however, the Commission removed the case to this Court and the trial was postponed. (Id.) This Court remanded the case to state court on September 5, 2003 for lack of federal jurisdiction. See Arizona Minority Coalition v. Arizona Indep. Redistricting Comm'n, 284 F.Supp.2d 1240, 1249 (D.Ariz.2003). After remand, the Arizona Superior Court set trial for November 2003. (First Am. Compl. ¶ 40.)

The trial in state court began on November 12, 2003 and continued for six weeks. (Id. ¶ 41.) On January 16, 2004, the court issued a written ruling: (1) declaring that the IRC's 2002 Legislative Plan violated the state constitution by failing to create competitive districts, (2) enjoining the use of the 2002 Legislative Plan for the 2004 legislative elections, (3) ordering the IRC to reconvene and establish lawful legislative districts within 45 days, and (4) ordering the IRC to appear on March 5, 2004 with a new legislative map. (Id.)

From February through April 2004, the IRC met to create a new legislative district plan that complied with the state court's January 16, 2004 order. (Id. ¶ 43.) The Commission adopted many of the district configurations and Hispanic Voting Age percentage requests made by the Minority Coalition and retained a majority Native-American district. (Id. ¶ 45.) The IRC presented the new legislative plan to the Arizona Superior Court on March 5, 2004. (Id.) Both the Commission's experts and the Plaintiffs approved of the plan. (Id.)

To comply with the Arizona Constitution, the Superior Court ordered that the March 2004 legislative redistricting plan be advertised for at least 30 days to allow the public to comment on the plan. (Id. ¶ 47) (citing ARIZ CONST., art IV, pt.2, § 1(16).) The Commission formally placed the plan on its website on March 8, 2004, along with a notice stating that the public had 30 days to comment. (Id.)

On April 2, 2004, the IRC amended the March 2004 legislative redistricting plan based on public comments received. (Id. ¶ 48.) The IRC finalized the plan on April 12, 2004 (the "April 12 Legislative Plan" or "April 12 Plan"). (Id.) On April 15, 2004, the Arizona Superior Court held a hearing in the state court action to take testimony from the IRC in support of the April 12 Plan and to hear objections from other parties. (Id. ¶ 49.) The court concluded that the Plan complied with the Arizona and federal constitutions and ordered the IRC to submit it to the DOJ for preclearance and to seek expedited review. (Id. ¶ 50.)

The IRC submitted the April 12 Legislative Plan to the DOJ for preclearance on April 20, 2004. (Id. ¶ 51.) Although the IRC requested expedited consideration, there was no guarantee that the DOJ would complete its review in time to meet critical election deadlines. The DOJ had 60 days to preclear or object to the April 12 Legislative Plan. See 28 C.F.R. §§ 59(a) & (b). If the submission was incomplete or if the DOJ required additional information, the 60-day clock would begin anew once the DOJ received the further information. Plaintiffs pointed out that if this were to occur, the preclearance deadline could extend beyond the August 5, 2004 early balloting date for the primary election. (First.Am.Compl.¶ 72.)

II. This Litigation

On April 23, 2004, the Minority Coalition and several other Plaintiffs4 filed a Verified Complaint in this District seeking a preliminary and permanent injunction directing the IRC and the Arizona Secretary of State to conduct the 2004 legislative primary and general elections under the April 12 Legislative Plan or an alternative legislative redistricting plan that complies with the United States Constitution, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (the "VRA"), and the Arizona Constitution on an emergency interim basis despite the lack of preclearance from the DOJ. (Verified Compl. at 13-14 [Doc. # 1].)

The Coalition alleged that without a legislative plan ordered by this court, the 2004 legislative primary and general elections would "at best be delayed and at worst cancelled." (Id. ¶ 58.) Arizona law has technical procedures that had to be completed before the primary and general elections.5 To qualify for the primary election ballot, partisan legislative candidates had to file their nomination petitions no later than June 9, 2004. A.R.S. §§ 16-311, 16-314. The Arizona Secretary of State had to certify the names of all legislative candidates who have qualified for the ballot by June 10, 2004, including the number of the legislative districts for each candidate. (Verified Compl. ¶ 50.)

All matters pertaining to candidate qualification were required to be resolved before ballots could be printed. A.R.S. §§ 16-314, 16-351. Candidate qualification challenges had to be filed by June 23, 2004, and decided by the trial court by July 2, 2004. A.R.S. § 16-314, 16-351....

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