Attorney General Greg Abbott’s defense of a now-defunct 2011 redistricting plan could leave the state on the hook for a roughly $6 million legal tab to pay civil rights groups that sued to block the maps. That’s the ballpark total for reimbursement requests from plaintiffs waging a years-long legal war with Abbott over redistricting maps passed by the Republican-led Legislature in 2011. Federal judges have deemed those maps discriminatory to minority voters, and they were never used. A three-judge panel in San Antonio drew interim maps for the 2012 election for the Texas House and Senate and the U.S. Congress. Led by Abbott and Gov. Rick Perry, state Republicans decided months ago to abandon the 2011 maps and replace them permanently with the political boundaries drawn by the judges. The Legislature approved the plans during a special session this summer.
Civil rights groups are now contending that because the 2011 maps were never used and ultimately were altered by a court, they are entitled to be reimbursed for money spent fighting Abbott in the case. They’ve asked a federal judge to make the state pay $6.2 million for lawyers, outside experts and travel.
“The attorney general’s job was to defend maps passed by the Legislature. Those maps never became law, and it would be intellectually dishonest for Abbott to say he won this case,” said Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, and the chairman of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, one of a number of minority groups that sued the state over its 2011 maps.
“This is the road Abbott paved, and now we’re at this juncture where the court is looking at attorney fees,” added Martinez Fischer, whose group is asking for about $2.5 million in reimbursement. “This is where he needs to own up and assume responsibility.”