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Indiana Supreme Court sides with Ballard in redistricting fight

May 7, 2014

The Indiana Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled in favor of Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard in a dispute between the mayor and Democratic members of the City-County Council who challenged a redistricting plan passed in late 2011.

In the fall of 2011, the Marion County City-County Council, which had a Republican majority, voted to approve a proposal creating Ordinance 61. That ordinance redrew the 25 districts for elections to the council beginning in 2015. Ballard signed the ordinance Jan. 1, 2012.

The ordinance was approved before a Democratic majority would take hold in the City-County Council beginning Jan. 1, 2012. Democratic Councilor Maggie Lewis filed a lawsuit against the Marion County Election Board, arguing that the ordinance failed to comply with the county’s redistricting statute.

The dispute went before a divided panel of trial court judges, who held 3-2 that the ordinance was passed too early to satisfy the redistricting statue. The judges drew new legislative districts and ordered Lewis and Ballard to equally split the cost of the master who was brought in to issue the final judgment.

The justices, in the per curiam decision, noted that both sides presented reasonable arguments about how the statute should be construed, and in particular, whether Ordinance 61 constitutes mandatory redistricting in 2012. The justices determined that it would be proper, as a matter of judicial restraint, to adopt the interpretation that avoids judicial line-drawing in what “is presumptively a matter for the legislative and executive branches of local government to address.”

“While recognizing Ordinance 61 as mandatory redistricting is just one reasonable construction of the Redistricting Statute, we adopt it because it allows legislatively adopted districts to remain in place and avoids the need for districts drawn by a court,” the opinion states.

The justices also noted that the disputed legal issue in this case is whether the City-County Council acted too early, but there is no allegation that the ordinance was substantively defective.

In addition to ordering summary judgment be entered in favor of Ballard, the justices reversed any order requiring him to pay part of the cost of the master.
 

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