Appeals court denies city of Jacksonville’s motion for stay of redistricting order

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The 11th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals has denied the city of Jacksonville’s request for a stay of a federal judge’s ruling on redistricting.

In December, the federal judge ruled against the Jacksonville City Council’s redistricting plan and said the city should use a map proposed by civil rights groups, including the Jacksonville Branch of the NAACP.

But the city last week asked the 11th Circuit to put the judge’s decision on hold and allow it to use the map that the council approved in November for the city elections in March.

“What the city hope to accomplish was to get their remedial map in place for the spring elections,” said News4JAX political expert Rick Mullaney, who is the director of the Jacksonville University Public Policy Institute.

🔒 INSIDER INTERACTIVE MAP: See how Jacksonville’s council districts would change under new map

In its response, the plaintiffs — the NAACP, the American Civil Liberties Union, Northside Coalition and individual voters — call the city’s motion a “last-minute bait-and-switch to try to maintain its racially gerrymandered City Council districts.”

COURT DOCUMENT: Appeals court’s order denying city’s motion for stay

The 11th Circuit on Friday issued its order, denying the city’s motion for stay. The ruling was 2-1 by a three-judge panel.

“Based on the district court’s order, and our limited review of the extensive and fact-intensive record, we cannot say that the city has shown a strong likelihood of success on the merits. First, the district court applied the correct standard,” the order reads. “Second, based on what we have been able to review and digest in the short time available since the motion to stay was filed, the city has not made a strong showing that the district court’s factual findings about racial gerrymandering in the proposed interim remedial plan are clearly erroneous.”

Circuit Judges Charles Wilson and Adalberto Jordan, who were in the majority, said the city didn’t meet the high bar required for them to block the lower court’s ruling. But they said that dosen’t mean it couldn’t be overturned in the future.

“This was not a ruling on the merits,” Mullaney said. “They’re not trying to say which map would be the one ultimately that would go into effect in the long run.”

Circuit Judge Kevin Newsom dissented.

“I would grant the stay. In its order enjoining the City’s interim redistricting map — which the City Council adopted (by a 16- 1 margin) to remedy constitutional infirmities in an earlier plan — the district court committed, it seems to me, several interrelated errors: (1) It absolved the map’s challengers of any obligation to show that the City acted with the required discriminatory intent; (2) it invalidated the interim map based solely on what it said were previous maps’ lingering discriminatory ‘effects’; and (3) it failed to accord city officials the presumption of ‘good faith’ to which the law entitles them,” Newsom writes. “It therefore seems to me substantially likely that the city will succeed in its defense of its plan.”

Ben Frazier, of the Northside Coalition, said in a statement, “We are pleased the Court of Appeals agreed with the district court’s ruling to reject the City Council’s unfair and deceptive attempt to limit Black voting power in Duval County.”

In a statement, City Council President Terrance Freeman said, “My office is aware of the court’s ruling. Throughout this process, the City Council has followed the guidance provided by our legal counsel. We have worked tirelessly, in a transparent manner, to bring resolution to this matter and to ensure residents of the City are adequately represented in the configuration of Council and the School Board districts. We are committed to following the law.”

According to the ACLU of Florida, whose Northeast chapter is a plaintiff in the case, the city could seek reconsideration of the appeals court order from the same three-judge panel, or it could seek review by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Mullaney said that with qualifying for candidates beginning next week, the March election will use the district lines drawn by the plaintiffs.

Jacksonville new district map
Map approved by Jacksonville City Council

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