Attorneys for a Republican political consultant have turned to the U.S. Supreme Court in their effort to block the release of emails and documents from Florida’s redistricting process. Lawyers for Pat Bainter and his Gainesville-based firm Data Targeting filed an emergency petition on Thursday to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas asking that the documents remain sealed until at least February. The documents were cited by a circuit judge as a reason why he ruled this summer the GOP-controlled Florida Legislature violated a state law that says congressional districts cannot be drawn to favor any political party or incumbent. State legislators were forced to hold a special session in August to redraw the districts although the changes won’t take effect until the 2016 elections. But the emails and documents have remained sealed as lawyers paid by the Republican Party of Florida have asserted that disclosing them would violate First Amendment rights and trade secrets.
The state Supreme Court earlier this month ruled that the documents should be released to the public and chastised the consultants for not raising First Amendment questions until six months after the documents were first requested.
Justices on Thursday reaffirmed that decision, although they said they would agree to keep the 538 pages of documents sealed until Dec. 1 in order for an appeal to be filed. Justice Barbara Pariente said that time had come to release the information.