The Virginia House of Delegates must produce the majority of documents sought by the plaintiffs in a lawsuit claiming a 2011 redistricting plan was crafted to disenfranchise black voters, a federal judge ruled.
Senior U.S. District Judge Robert Payne’s May 26 ruling was a victory for the 12 plaintiffs who claim “bizarrely-shaped” house voting districts included in the plan were drafted based on a “purely racial classification of voters” that was both arbitrary and unconstitutional. Virginia House Speaker William J. Howell denied the allegations intervened in the case to argue that documents requested by the plaintiffs to bolster their case are protected by legislative and attorney-client privilege.
Howell argued on behalf of the entire House of Delegates that because its members do not represent the individual interests of the delegates involved in the 2011 remapping, they do not have to divulge privileged documents on those lawmakers’ behalf.
Together, court documents say, the house, speaker and plaintiff voters agreed to seek documents from individual lawmakers directly. Of the 29 lawmakers served, 4 agreed to supply documents while the remaining 25 either denied or ignored the request.
“That letter informed the affected delegates that the house had custody of the responsive emails to or from the delegates; that the house did not represent the delegates; and that it was the responsibility of the individual delegates to waiver or assert the legislative privilege,” Judge Payne wrote.
Full Article: Courthouse News Service.