Texas must pay more than $1 million in legal fees to groups that challenged the state’s redistricting plans, a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., ruled Tuesday. Texas forfeited any opposition to fees when it failed to make substantive arguments in the lower court, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit said. A three-page advisory filed by the state—contending that Texas became the winner in the redistricting case after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a provision of the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder—didn’t cut it, Judge Patricia Millett wrote. “Texas gets no second bite at the apple now,” Millett wrote. “What little argument Texas did advance in its ‘Advisory’ provides an insufficient basis for overturning the district court’s award of attorneys’ fees.” Paul Smith, chairman of Jenner & Block’s appellate and Supreme Court practice who argued for the groups that sought fees from Texas, said in an email that the D.C. Circuit “properly recognized that Texas failed to file a valid opposition to our fee requests in the district court and then failed again to challenge (or even mention) the district court’s waiver holding in its opening brief on appeal.” A representative of the Texas Attorney General’s Office was not immediately available for comment.
According to the fee award entered in June 2014 by U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer, Smith and Jenner & Block partner Jessica Ring Amunson will share $466,680 with J. Gerald Hebert, an Alexandria, Virginia, solo practitioner, and Chad Dunn of Brazil & Dunn in Houston. Perkins Coie will receive $597,715, and Gary Bledsoe of Bledsoe & Potter in Austin will receive $32,374.
A three-judge panel in Washington found in 2012 that Texas failed to show that it adopted nondiscriminatory redistricting plans under the Voting Rights Act. Texas appealed to the Supreme Court. While the case was pending, the state adopted new redistricting plans that were signed into law by Gov. Rick Perry in June 2013.