Members of the Independent Redistricting Commission want a federal court to block them from being questioned about the legislative maps they drew. In legal papers filed in U.S. District Court, attorneys for the five commissioners said their actions are protected by “legislative privilege,” a legal concept that generally prevents lawmakers from being questioned or sued about how they reached a decision. And they want a three-judge panel hearing the case to preclude lawyers for the challengers, from being allowed to ask them about it in pretrial depositions. But Joe Kanefield, one of the commission’s attorneys, said this is just the first step to asking the federal judges to bar challengers from putting the commissioners on the stand at trial to get them to explain why they did what they did.
There is a long line of cases that some actions of legislators are off limits to outside questioning. And there already have been court rulings that the commissioners, in drafting the maps, are acting in a legislative capacity. But there also are other rulings that back the contention that not everything the commissioners did can be considered a legislative action. Actions that were strictly administrative can be subject to legal scrutiny.
Hanging in the balance ultimately is whether the court will overturn the lines the commission drew for the state’s 30 legislative districts, the districts that were used just in last month’s election. That election resulted in Democrats picking up four seats in both the state House and Senate. The lawsuit contends commissioners acted on purpose to make that happen.