May 28, 2004
Attorneys for two state agencies asked the state Court of Appeals Thursday to let this year’s legislative races be run using district lines a lower court judge said are unconstitutional.
Assistant Attorney General Jessica Funkhouser told the three-judge panel there is no way to prepare the ballots for the September primary if Secretary of State Jan Brewer and the county recorders are required to wait any longer for federal approval of the new districts.
Lisa Hauser, representing the Independent Redistricting Commission, said the court should keep the lines that were ruled unconstitutional in place while her client appeals that lower court ruling.
The arguments drew a skeptical response from Judge John Gemmill.
He acknowledged there may be legal questions about whether Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Kenneth Fields legally was correct this past year in saying the commission violated the constitution by not creating as many politically competitive districts as possible.
But Gemmill said that, for the time being, is the only legal ruling on the issue.
Attorney Paul Eckstein, who represents a coalition that challenged those earlier lines, told the judges they should not do anything to disturb Fields’ ruling — at least not until they do a complete review of his decision. That is not scheduled to occur until sometime next year.
The Court of Appeals ruling is expected today.
The case is before the Court of Appeals because the new districts, approved by the commission after Fields voided the old ones, have not ye t received required approval from the U.S. Department of Justice. That agency has until June 21 to act, but candidates must file their nominating papers by June 9.