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Court to discuss committee's redistricting reports, public comment

Madison, Wisconsin - January 15, 2009

The Wisconsin Supreme Court will meet in open administrative conferences on Jan. 22 and Feb. 20 to discuss a committee’s findings and public comment regarding court procedures that could be used if it is asked to settle a dispute over legislative redistricting in Wisconsin. A copy of the order setting the conferences can be found here.

The Wisconsin Redistricting Committee was formed Nov. 25, 2003 as a result of a case brought to the Court by Republican legislative leaders in 2002, 02-0057-OA, Jensen et al. v. Wisconsin Elections Bd. et al. The timing of the request for original jurisdiction in that case did not permit the Court to enough time to exercise its original jurisdiction in a way to do substantial justice, and the dispute was ultimately resolved in federal court, where a case was already pending.

At that time, the Court indicated new procedures could include “provisions governing factfinding (by a commission or panel of special masters or otherwise); opportunity for public hearing and comment on proposed redistricting plans; established timetables for the factfinder, the public and the court to act; and if possible, measures by which to avoid the sort of federal-state court 'forum shopping' conflict presented [in this case].”

The committee filed a draft proposal with the Court in September 2007 and a supplemental memo in September 2008. The supplemental memo included consideration of public comment and discussion by the justices during an open administrative conference held April 8, 2008.

The supplemental memo addresses details of the committee’s original proposal, which outlines procedures that could be implemented if:
1) the Legislature is at an impasse in attempting to redraw legislative district boundaries; and
2) a party files a lawsuit asking the Court to take original jurisdiction; and
3) the Court agrees to grant the case; and
4) the Court approves the procedures.

The last time the Legislature completed the redistricting process without substantial judicial intervention was 1931, according to findings of the committee.

General public testimony will not be entertained at the open conferences. The Court, in its discretion, may direct questions to individuals present at the conferences.

Committee members include: R. Booth Fowler, professor emeritus, Political Science, UW-Madison; Donald Kotecki, Survey Research Center, St. Norbert College; Kenneth Mayer (co-chair), professor, Political Science, UW-Madison; Ed Miller (co-chair), professor, Political Science, UW-Stevens Point; Peter Rofes, professor, Marquette University Law School.

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