Harris v. Ariz. Indep. Redistricting Comm'n, No. CV–12–894–PHX–ROS–NVW–RRC.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. District of Arizona
Writing for the CourtPER CURIAM:
Citation993 F.Supp.2d 1042
Docket NumberNo. CV–12–894–PHX–ROS–NVW–RRC.
Decision Date29 April 2014
PartiesWesley W. HARRIS, et al., Plaintiffs, v. ARIZONA INDEPENDENT REDISTRICTING COMMISSION, et al., Defendants.

993 F.Supp.2d 1042

Wesley W. HARRIS, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
ARIZONA INDEPENDENT REDISTRICTING COMMISSION, et al., Defendants.

No. CV–12–894–PHX–ROS–NVW–RRC.

United States District Court,
D. Arizona.

Filed April 29, 2014.


[993 F.Supp.2d 1046]


Ahron David Cohen, Michael T. Liburdi, Snell & Wilmer LLP, David J. Cantelme, Cantelme & Brown PLC, Phoenix, AZ, for Plaintiffs.

Brunn Wall Roysden, III, Joseph Andrew Kanefield, Ballard Spahr LLP, Colin F. Campbell, Jeffrey Bryan Molinar, Mary Ruth Ogrady, Osborn Maledon PA, Michele Lee Forney, Diana Day, Office of the Attorney General, Phoenix, AZ, for Defendants.


Before CLIFTON, Circuit Judge, and SILVER and WAKE, District Judges.

OPINION

PER CURIAM:

Plaintiffs, individual voters registered in the State of Arizona, challenge the map drawn for state legislative districts by the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission for use starting in 2012, based on the 2010 census. They argue that the Commission underpopulated Democrat-leaning districts and overpopulated Republican-leaning districts for partisan reasons, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment's one-person, one-vote principle. The Commission denies that it was driven by partisanship, explaining that the population deviations were driven by its efforts to comply with Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. We conclude that the population deviations were primarily a result of good-faith efforts to comply with the Voting Rights Act, and that even though partisanship played some role in the design of the map, the Fourteenth Amendment challenge fails.1

[993 F.Supp.2d 1047]

The one-person, one-vote requirement of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment does not require that legislative districts have precisely equal population, but provides that divergences must be “based on legitimate considerations incident to the effectuation of a rational state policy.” Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533, 579, 84 S.Ct. 1362, 12 L.Ed.2d 506 (1964). The majority of the overpopulated districts in the map drawn by the Commission were Republican-leaning, while the majority of the underpopulated districts leaned Democratic. Plaintiffs' complaint alleged that this correlation was no accident, that partisanship drove it, and that partisanship is not a permissible reason to deviate from population equality in redistricting.

The Commission does not argue that the population deviations came about by accident, but it disputes that the motivation was partisanship. Most of the underpopulated districts have significant minority populations, and the Commission presented them to the Department of Justice as districts in which minority groups would have the opportunity to elect candidates of their choice. Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act required that the Commission obtain preclearance from the Department before its plan went into effect. To obtain preclearance, the Commission had to show that any proposed changes would not diminish the ability of minority groups to elect the candidates of their choice. The Commission argues that its effort to comply with the Voting Rights Act drove the population deviations.

For the purpose of this opinion, we assume without deciding that partisanship is not a legitimate reason to deviate from population equality. We find that the primary factor driving the population deviation was the Commission's good-faith effort to comply with the Voting Rights Act and, in particular, to obtain preclearance from the Department of Justice on the first try. The commissioners were aware of the political consequences of redistricting, however, and we find that some of the commissioners were motivated in part in some of the linedrawing decisions by a desire to improve Democratic prospects in the affected districts. Nonetheless, the Fourteenth Amendment gives states some degree of leeway in drawing their own legislative districts and, because compliance with federal voting rights law was the predominant reason for the deviations, we conclude that no federal constitutional violation occurred.

We do not decide whether any violations of state law occurred. Though plaintiffs have alleged violations of state law and the Arizona Constitution, we decided early in the proceedings and announced in a prior order that Arizona's courts are the proper forum for such claims. We discuss that subject further below, at 1065–66. We express no opinion on whether the redistricting plan violated the equal population clause of the Arizona Constitution, whether the Commission violated state law in

[993 F.Supp.2d 1048]

adopting the grid map with population variations rather than strict population equality, or whether state law prohibits adjusting legislative districts for partisan reasons. All that we consider is whether a federal constitutional violation occurred.

At trial, plaintiffs focused on three districts that they argued were not true Voting Rights Districts and therefore could not justify population deviations: Districts 8, 24, and 26. Accordingly, this opinion largely focuses on the population shifts associated with the creation of these three districts.

I. Course of Proceedings

Plaintiffs filed this action on April 27, 2012, and subsequently filed a First Amended Complaint. This three judge district court was convened pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2284(a). Plaintiffs sought a declaration that the final legislative map violated both the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the equal population requirement of the Arizona Constitution, an injunction against enforcing the map, and a mandate that the Commission draw a new map for legislative elections following the 2012 elections. Originally, not only was the Commission a defendant in this action, but so too were each of the five commissioners in their official capacities. 2

Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim. In a reasoned order, we denied the motion. Plaintiffs then filed a Second Amended Complaint.

Prior to trial, the parties filed several motions that the court summarily disposed of on February 22, 2013. First, defendants moved to stay the case pending the resolution of state-law claims in state court, which we denied. Defendants also moved for a protective order on the basis of legislative privilege, which we denied. Finally, defendants moved for judgment on the pleadings, asking for dismissal of the individual commissioners as defendants and for dismissal of plaintiffs' claim for relief under the equal population requirement of the Arizona Constitution. We granted this motion, dismissing the individual commissioners from the suit and dismissing plaintiffs' second claim for relief. We explain the bases for our rulings on these motions later in this opinion, at 1063–71.

Starting March 25, 2013, we presided over a five-day bench trial. Among other witnesses, all five commissioners testified.

II. Findings of Fact

Most of the factual findings below, based in large part on transcripts of public hearings and other documents in the public record, were not disputed at trial. Rather, what was most controverted was what inferences about the Commission's motivation we should draw from the largely undisputed facts. We discuss that issue, whether and to what extent partisanship motivated the Commission, at the end of this section, at 1063–71.

To the extent any finding of fact should more properly be designated a conclusion of law, it should be treated as a conclusion of law. Similarly, to the extent any conclusion of law should more properly be designated a finding of fact, it should be treated as a finding of fact.

A. The Approved Legislative Redistricting Plan

The first election cycle using the legislative map drawn by the Commission took

[993 F.Supp.2d 1049]

place in 2012. Arizona has thirty legislative districts, each of which elects two representatives and one senator. Ariz. Const. art. IV, pt. 2, § 1. The following chart summarizes pertinent electoral results and population statistics for the Commission's 2012 legislative map, which we explain in greater detail below.

Percentage
Presented to
Party Affiliation
Party Affiliation
Deviation
DOJ as
of Senator
of Representatives
from Ideal
Ability-to-
Elected in
Elected in
District
Population
Elect District
2012
2012
1
1.6%
Republican
Two Republicans
2
–4.0%
Yes
Democrat
Two Democrats
3
–4.0%
Yes
Democrat
Two Democrats
4
–4.2%
Yes
Democrat
Two Democrats
5
2.8%
Republican
Two Republicans
6
0.6%
Republican
Two Republicans
7
–4.7%
Yes
Democrat
Two Democrats
8
–2.2%
Democrat
Two Republicans
9
0.1%
Democrat
One Democrat, One Republican
10
–0.9%
Democrat
Two Democrats
11
0.1%
Republican
Two Republicans
12
4.1%
Republican
Two Republicans
13
–0.6%
Republican
Two Republicans
14
2.2%
Republican
Two Republicans
15
0.9%
Republican
Two Republicans
16
3.3%
Republican
Two Republicans
17
3.8%
Republican
Two Republicans
18
2.6%
Republican
Two Republicans
19
–2.8%
Yes
Democrat
Two Democrats
20
2.4%
Republican
Two Republicans
21
1.5%
Republican
Two Republicans
22
1.3%
Republican
Two Republicans
23
0.2%
Republican
Two Republicans
24
–3.0%
Yes
Democrat
Two Democrats
25
3.6%
Republican
Two Republicans
26
0.3%
Yes
Democrat
Two Democrats
27
–4.2%
Yes
Democrat
Two Democrats
28
2.6%
Republican
One Democrat, One Republican
29
–0.9%
Yes
Democrat
Two Democrats
30
–2.5%
Yes
Democrat
Two Democrats

Figure 1. 2012 Legislative Map Statistics.

In the 2012 elections, Republicans won a total of 36 out of the 60 house seats, winning both seats in 17 districts and 1 seat in 2 districts. Democrats won the remaining 24 house seats, winning 2 seats in 11 districts and 1 seat in 2 districts. Republicans won 17 out of 30 senate seats, and Democrats won the remaining 13. The Democratic senate candidate narrowly won in District 8, but the Republican candidate might have won if not for the presence of a Libertarian candidate in the

[993 F.Supp.2d 1050]

race.3 In all, 16 districts elected only Republicans to the state legislative houses, 11 districts elected only Democrats, and 3 districts elected a combination of Republicans and Democrats.

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15 practice notes
  • Perez v. Abbott, SA-11-CV-360.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Western District of Texas
    • April 20, 2017
    ...2342 ; Finch , 431 U.S. at 415, 97 S.Ct. 1828 ; Brown , 462 U.S. at 843, 103 S.Ct. 2690 ; Harris v. Ariz. Indep. Redistricting Comm'n , 993 F.Supp.2d 1042, 1090 (D. Ariz. 2014), aff'd , ––– U.S. ––––, 136 S.Ct. 1301, 194 L.Ed.2d 497 (2016). The Supreme Court has identified several specific ......
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    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Pennsylvania)
    • January 10, 2018
    ...Rights Act [ ] even though partisanship played some role." Id. at 1309 (quoting Harris v. Arizona Indep. Redistricting Comm'n, 993 F.Supp.2d 1042, 1046 (D. Ariz. 2014) ). Accordingly, because the plaintiffs "ha[d] not shown that it was more probable than not that illegitimate cons......
  • Ariz. State Legislature v. Ariz. Indep. Redistricting Comm'n, No. 13–1314.
    • United States
    • U.S. Supreme Court
    • June 29, 2015
    ...assessment, THE CHIEF JUSTICE cites a three-judge Federal District Court opinion, Harris v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Comm'n, 993 F.Supp.2d 1042 (Ariz.2014). That opinion, he asserts, “detail[s] the partisanship that has affected the Commission.” Post, at 2691. No careful reader cou......
  • Ariz. State Legislature v. Ariz. Indep. Redistricting Comm'n, No. 13–1314.
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 29, 2015
    ...THE CHIEF JUSTICE cites a three-judge Federal 576 U.S. 821 District Court opinion, Harris v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Comm'n, 993 F.Supp.2d 1042 (Ariz.2014). That opinion, he asserts, "detail[s] the partisanship that has affected the Commission." Post, at 2691. No careful......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
15 cases
  • Perez v. Abbott, SA-11-CV-360.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Western District of Texas
    • April 20, 2017
    ...2342 ; Finch , 431 U.S. at 415, 97 S.Ct. 1828 ; Brown , 462 U.S. at 843, 103 S.Ct. 2690 ; Harris v. Ariz. Indep. Redistricting Comm'n , 993 F.Supp.2d 1042, 1090 (D. Ariz. 2014), aff'd , ––– U.S. ––––, 136 S.Ct. 1301, 194 L.Ed.2d 497 (2016). The Supreme Court has identified several specific ......
  • Agre v. Wolf, CIVIL ACTION NO. 17–4392
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Pennsylvania)
    • January 10, 2018
    ...Rights Act [ ] even though partisanship played some role." Id. at 1309 (quoting Harris v. Arizona Indep. Redistricting Comm'n, 993 F.Supp.2d 1042, 1046 (D. Ariz. 2014) ). Accordingly, because the plaintiffs "ha[d] not shown that it was more probable than not that illegitimate cons......
  • Ariz. State Legislature v. Ariz. Indep. Redistricting Comm'n, No. 13–1314.
    • United States
    • U.S. Supreme Court
    • June 29, 2015
    ...assessment, THE CHIEF JUSTICE cites a three-judge Federal District Court opinion, Harris v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Comm'n, 993 F.Supp.2d 1042 (Ariz.2014). That opinion, he asserts, “detail[s] the partisanship that has affected the Commission.” Post, at 2691. No careful reader cou......
  • Ariz. State Legislature v. Ariz. Indep. Redistricting Comm'n, No. 13–1314.
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 29, 2015
    ...THE CHIEF JUSTICE cites a three-judge Federal 576 U.S. 821 District Court opinion, Harris v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Comm'n, 993 F.Supp.2d 1042 (Ariz.2014). That opinion, he asserts, "detail[s] the partisanship that has affected the Commission." Post, at 2691. No careful......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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