Glasgow Daily Times, Glasgow, KY

State News

February 14, 2012

LRC appeals to Supreme Court

FRANKFORT — A lawyer for the governing arm of the state legislature has filed an appeal asking the state Supreme Court to dissolve a Franklin Circuit Court temporary injunction that 2012 candidates for the legislature run under 2002 district lines and set aside its ruling that the new district lines passed this year are unconstitutional.

A request to transfer the appeal from the state Court of Appeals was received Monday by the Supreme Court which has not decided whether it will hear the case.

In the appeal, Sheryl Snyder, attorney for the Legislative Research Commission, which is made up of legislative leaders from both parties in both chambers, argues that Judge Phillip Shepherd misapplied an earlier Supreme Court ruling which attempted to reconcile differences between Kentucky’s constitution that prohibits splitting counties for purposes of drawing districts and the federal mandate of equality between districts.

The appeal also contends that House Bill 1, the new map passed this year by the General Assembly, properly applies federal standards to ensure roughly equal legislative districts and that the 2002 map is unconstitutional under the same guidelines because population shifts over the past 10 years have caused significant variations in the populations in those districts.

Snyder argues that U.S. Supreme Court rulings hold that no district can be more than 10 percent larger than the smallest district and HB 1 meets that standard.

Ensuring equal representation between districts, commonly referred to as “one man, one vote,” Snyder argues in the motion, effectively renders Section 33 of the Kentucky Constitution which prohibits splitting counties unconstitutional. Kentucky has 22 counties which have populations in excess of the average legislative district population size. Both the 2002 and 2012 district maps include 28 split counties, although Republican lawmakers from the House who initiated the suit which led to Shepherd’s ruling say a map can be drawn which splits no more than 24.

In asking the Court of Appeals to transfer the case immediately to the state Supreme Court, Snyder said the appeal “presents questions of great and immediate importance to the citizens of the Commonwealth.”

Three Republican House members and two private citizens filed the suit in Franklin Circuit Court after the Democratic-controlled House and Republican controlled Senate passed plans which were favorable to their respective party’s incumbents. The Senate map changed the number of the district where Democratic Sen. Kathy Stein lives in Fayette County district from an odd to an even number and moved the 13th District which previously encompassed the Fayette County district to northeastern Kentucky. That effectively made Stein ineligible to run this fall because only odd-numbered districts are on the ballot.

Shepherd allowed Stein to join the suit but he did not rule on her claims, saying it raises a “substantial question of law.” Snyder’s motion argues that is a political act and not a matter for the courts. He called Shepherd’s ruling “an unprecedented use of the power of an injunction to solve a political question.”

Ronnie Ellis writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at rellis@cnhi.com. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.

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