Leon County Circuit Court Judge George Reynolds rejected a request by the Florida Senate to have the court hire a redistricting expert to redraw the Senate maps, saying “we just don’t have enough time left” to hire a newcomer to the process and get the boundaries set in time for the 2016 election. The quick decision after a 30-minute hearing Friday was a blow to the Florida Senate, whose lawyers argued that by hiring an expert to draw the maps instead of relying on the Legislature or challengers, they could streamline this litigation and reduce the burden to the parties and Florida’s taxpayers. “It appears to me we just don’t have enough time left to engage in any process, other than the one we are currently on,” Reynolds said in denying the Senate request. “I do that with some reluctance because I could use all the help that I can get in making this decision.”
He ordered the five-day trial to proceed Dec. 14-18 and said proposed maps must be submitted to court by next Wednesday and discovery — including questioning of legislators — can proceed after that.
If the court had agreed to hire one of the three university professors recommended by the Senate, it would have given the Senate a tactical victory in the bitter redistricting fight. Although there were only slight differences between the House and Senate over the final proposed maps, they were significantly different from those offered by the plaintiffs.