Court agrees to expedite hearing on redistricting commission - East Valley Tribune: Arizona

Court agrees to expedite hearing on redistricting commission

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Posted: Tuesday, January 4, 2011 2:34 pm | Updated: 5:07 pm, Fri Mar 4, 2011.

The Arizona Supreme Court will consider arguments later this month by two state lawmakers that three people ineligible to serve were nominated for the Independent Redistricting Commission.

In a brief order Tuesday, the justices agreed to the request for an expedited hearing. House Speaker Kirk Adams and Russell Pearce, the president-elect of the Senate, pointed out they are legally required to make their choices from the list of nominees by the end of the month.

The court gave members of the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments, which acted as the screening panel, until Jan. 14 to respond. A hearing is set for four days later.

A 2000 Arizona law removed the ability of legislators to draw lines for their own districts and for congressional representation, giving that chore to the Independent Redistricting Commission.

The screening panel chooses 10 Republicans, 10 Democrats and five independents. From that list, Adams and Pearce, as the top legislative Republicans, each get to name one member of the commission; the top Democrats from the House and Senate also each get a pick.

Those four ultimately choose a fifth who, in the last decade, was a registered independent.

The two GOP legislators contend that two of the Republicans on the list of nominees, Mark Schnepf and Steven Sossaman, are not entitled to serve because they are members of irrigation district boards. The 2000 law precludes anyone holding "public office" from serving on the redistricting commission.

Adams and Pearce also are challenging the inclusion of Paul Bender, former dean of the Arizona State University College of Law, on the list of independents. Bender serves as a part-time appellate judge for several Indian tribes, a position both contend is a public office.

Last week, though, a majority of the commission rejected the challenges, saying their own legal advice said otherwise. That left Pearce and Adams with filing suit as their only option.

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