Civil rights groups are now contending that since the 2011 maps were never used and ultimately were altered by a court that they are entitled to be reimbursed for money spent fighting [Attorney General Greg] Abbott in the case. They’ve asked a federal judge to make the state pay $6.2 million for lawyers, outside experts and travel.
“The attorney general’s job was to defend maps passed by the Legislature. Those maps never became law and it would be intellectually dishonest for Abbott to say he won this case,” said Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, and the chairman of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, one of a number of minority groups that sued the state over its 2011 redistricting maps.
“This is the road Abbott paved, and now we’re at this juncture where the court is looking at attorney fees,” added Martinez-Fischer, whose group is asking for about $2.5 million in reimbursement. “This is where he needs to own up and assume responsibility.”
The San Antonio judges gave the civil rights groups the OK to file applications detailing expenses and asking for reimbursement, a signal to some observers the court is likely to award some kind of fees.
The $6.2 million total request for fees stems from legal challenges to 2011 maps for the Texas House and U.S. Congress. Groups suing over those maps have not been declared prevailing parties in the 2011 case.
Sen. Wendy Davis – who sued to protect her Tarrant County district from being retooled under the 2011 plan – was given that declaration by the San Antonio court earlier this month – and the court instructed her lawyers to file their application for reimbursement. Davis’ lawyers have been trying to negotiate with the state and expect to file with the court as early as this week.
The state’s argument is that the lawsuit over the 2011 maps never really came to a conclusion because of the SCOTUS ruling on the Voting Rights Act and the substitution of the 2013 amended maps; Sen. Davis was declared the winner in her fight because she and the state came to a settlement agreement. The state is basically arguing for a technicality, but the law is full of such things. It would be nice if the court didn’t let them get away with it since it was clear they were heading for an ignominious defeat. Whatever happens, you can be sure there will be appeals. Which, among other things, will serve to jack the price up even higher if the state winds up losing in the end. For some related news on the redistricting lawsuit, see Texas Redistricting.