The Florida Supreme Court on Friday ordered the trial court to return to the redistricting drawing board, allowing it to review the rival maps submitted by the House and Senate and choose between them. The court rejected a request by the plaintiffs to take over the drawing of the congressional map after a two-week special session of the Legislature in August ended without an enacted map. But the high court opened the door to the state Senate’s request to conduct another special session on redistricting, as long as the work is completed by the deadline the court set in July — Oct. 17. The ruling orders Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis to hold a hearing on the “proposed remedial plans” from both the House and the Senate, as well as any amendments offered to them. “However, the Legislature is not precluded from enacting a remedial plan prior to the time the trial court sets for the hearing,” the court added.
The ruling was signed by Chief Justice Jorge Labarga and Justices Barbara Pariente, Peggy Quince and J.C. Perry. Justice Charles Canady, the most outspoken critic of the court’s previous redistricting rulings, concurred in most of the decision but dissented in the part that said the trial court may not accept new evidence. Justice Ricky Polston concurred.
The court repeated its position that the “the burden remains on the House and Senate to justify their chosen configurations” and said that the final plan will be a permanent map, not an interim one as the House suggested.
It ordered the trial court to recommend before Oct. 17 the map that “best fulfills the specific directions in the Court’s July 9, 2015, opinion and all constitutional requirements.”