Brewer, Senate GOP ask court to block Mathis from acting as redistricting chair - East Valley Tribune: Politics

Brewer, Senate GOP ask court to block Mathis from acting as redistricting chair

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Posted: Monday, November 21, 2011 7:15 pm | Updated: 3:38 pm, Fri Nov 25, 2011.

Gov. Jan Brewer and Senate Republicans asked the Arizona Supreme Court late Monday to block Colleen Mathis from acting as chair of the Independent Redistricting Commission, at least for the time being, despite the justices' ruling last week she was illegally fired.

Legal papers filed by attorneys for the governor and lawmakers contend that, despite the court ruling, they did nothing improper in ousting Mathis. But they said if the justices are unwilling to change their minds, the least they can do is explain what was done wrong -- and keep Mathis from acting as a commissioner in the interim.

More to the point, they made no secret they want that information to determine if there is a legal way for Brewer to fire Mathis and for the Republican-controlled Senate to ratify that decision. They said a clarification would allow them to "exercise their constitutionally vested authority in a way that conforms with the court's order.''

But Mary O'Grady, the commission's attorney, said she believes the justices got it right when they reinstated Mathis after the hour-long hearing last Thursday. And O'Grady said she will fight any effort to sideline Mathis, even temporarily.

In their brief order Thursday, the court said the letter that Brewer sent to Mathis on Nov. 1 firing her "does not demonstrate'' that the chairwoman was guilty of substantial neglect of duty or gross misconduct in office, the constitutional grounds under which a governor can fire a commissioner.

The justices promised a full ruling. But they did not say when.

What they did do, though, is immediately reinstate Mathis. And Mathis said she plans to call the five-member panel together as early as this coming Monday to start reviewing the public comments to the draft maps.

"I am hopeful that we can complete our mission before Christmas,'' she said in a prepared statement. Mathis said that will provide the necessary time for the legally required review of the plans by the U.S. Department of Justice which is entitled to "preclear'' any changes in state election laws.

Brewer has made no secret she does not want the commission to give final approval to new maps for the 30 legislative and nine congressional districts, particularly if they are similar to the draft maps she and Republican lawmakers contend are both illegal and unfair to the GOP.

Press aide Matthew Benson said it is far easier to come up with maps more to the governor's liking -- and, from her perspective, legal -- by having them redrawn by a revamped commission with someone new in charge. He said once those maps gain commission approval, the only remedy is challenging them in court, something which is much more difficult.

Benson sidestepped questions about whether Brewer is simply looking for legal roadmap from the high court so she can do what she wanted to do in the first place.

"She stands by the action that she took,'' Benson said of the firing. But she can't make an informed decision about what to do next until she gets some kind of guidance from the court here.''

Brewer and the senators also have not given up hope that the court will eventually see things their way.

In a separate filing Monday, their attorneys asked the justices to reconsider their ruling. Those legal papers reiterated some of the same arguments made last week in court, unsuccessfully, including that the decision by Brewer to fire Mathis and the Senate to ratify that are "political questions'' which are beyond the reach of the Supreme Court.

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