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County redistricting lawsuit costing a bundle

Redistricting is expensive, y’all.

Commissioners Court interim map

Harris County has spent nearly $1.3 million fighting a 2011 lawsuit filed by a group of Hispanic activists against the redistricting plan it adopted that year for its four county commissioner precincts.

The plaintiffs, led by Houston City Councilmen James Rodriguez and Ed Gonzalez, and represented by Chad Dunn, general counsel for the Texas Democratic Party, allege the map illegally dilutes Latino voting power in Precinct 2, on the east side.

The lawsuit went to trial in November, but U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore has yet to rule in the case.

The county has spent $1,246,569.99 on the lawsuit, according to data from the county attorney’s office, with the bulk of that — $1.1 million — going toward billing for attorneys and paralegals. Houston-based firm Andrews Kurth is representing the county.

The county also paid that firm roughly $620,000 for the redistricting maps themselves, after the 2010 census showed shifts in population growth, forcing new lines to be drawn to make the four precincts equal at about 1 million residents each.

“Anytime there is contested litigation, the costs do mount,” said First Assistant County Attorney Robert Soard.

See here and here for the previous updates. I say there’s a pretty good argument for the county not pursuing any further appeals if they lose. There’s no principle at stake here, just Jack Morman’s electoral prospects. At the very least, if the county insists on continuing to litigate, they ought to demand a steep discount, if not an outright rebate, from Andrews Kurth. For one thing, you could say that if Andrews Kurth had done a better job advising the county on how to draw the map in the first place, we wouldn’t be in this mess today. For another, Andrews Kurth has already charged the county nearly double what Andy Taylor billed the state of Texas after the 2003 re-redistricting litigation. Sure, that was nearly ten years ago and costs do go up and all that, but Taylor wasn’t exactly cheap and Andrews Kurth has already made a bundle. It will be time for a little fiscal discipline if the county loses this round.

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One Comment

  1. Mainstream says:

    Actually, the county commissioners would have every reason to appeal, given the unsettled status of the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act. But I do not believe the map drawn for the county by Andrews Kurth is illegal in any way. In fact, if it is illegal at all, it is because it is too racailly constructed. The extreme racial separation of voters between the district represented by El Franco Lee and by Moorman may violate equal protection rights of some voters who have not yet sued.

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