A three-judge panel was appointed last week in the Eastern District of Arkansas to preside over a lawsuit challenging the way Arkansas lawmakers enacted a legislative redistricting plan in 2011. In the suit, Julius J. Larry III, a retired civil-rights attorney in Houston, Texas, who became the publisher of the weekly Little Rock Sun black newspaper in 2013, contends that the boundaries of the 1st Congressional District were set to intentionally dilute black voting strength, in violation of the Voting Rights Act. U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker, to whom the case was assigned, on April 23 dismissed a second claim in which Larry said the state gerrymandered the boundaries in violation of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment, saying that because he lives in Little Rock, in the 2nd Congressional District, he lacked standing to pursue that claim.
The defendants in the case — the state, Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, Secretary of State Mark Martin and the Arkansas Legislature — all filed motions asking Baker to dismiss both claims on the grounds that Larry lacked standing and didn’t name the proper defendants. But Baker said the vote-dilution claims fall under a federal mandate requiring a three-judge panel to be convened when someone challenges the constitutionality of the apportionment of congressional districts.
Larry said Monday that he believes the three-judge panel — Baker, Chief U.S. District Judge Brian Miller and U.S. Circuit Judge Duane Benton of Kansas City, Mo. — will hold a trial in October. Chief U.S. Circuit Judge Lavenski Smith of Little Rock appointed the panelists last week.
Full Article: 3 judges assigned to redistricting suit.