It is rare for a court to work on Saturdays or even late at night. But that is what the federal tribunal refereeing the three-year Texas redistricting fight did in mid-July. The San Antonio-based court worked six consecutive days and in one of those sessions it heard testimony from witnesses until 9 p.m., according to people who stayed until closing time. “We’re going to be here a while,” state Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, one of more than 50 witnesses, said before testifying late that afternoon. “This court means business.” The same three-judge panel was back on Monday. After hearing the arguments on the constitutionality of the Texas House map the Republican-dominated Legislature approved in the 2011 session, the court will now focus on the legality of the congressional map the lawmakers approved during the same session.
There is no longer a legal fight over the Texas Senate map because both sides reached a compromise before the 2012 Democratic and Republican primaries. In addition, though the Legislature also redraws the boundaries of State Board of Education districts, this was the only map Democratic and Republican legislators agreed on during the redistricting session.
Jose Garza, lead redistricting attorney for the Mexican American Legislative Caucus — a leading plaintiff — said though next week’s fight over the congressional map is not expected to last as long, he and fellow litigants expect be in back in court in the fall.
After the part of the trial over the congressional map, the court will focus on the legality of the temporary maps used in this year’s election, which the Legislature approved in a special session last year, Garza said.