Appeal of redistricting ruling could cost $220,000 in legal fees

Feb 14, 2012

By Jack Brammer and John Cheves
Lexington Herald-Leader

FRANKFORT — The battle over Kentucky's newly-drawn legislative districts went to the state Supreme Court on Monday at a potential cost of $220,000 in legal fees, most of that to be footed by taxpayers.

The Legislative Research Commission, which represents House Speaker Greg Stumbo and Senate President David Williams in defending the districts from a constitutional challenge, has budgeted $95,000 for Louisville attorney Sheryl Snyder, although it may end up paying less depending on how much work is necessary.

Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes and the state Board of Elections, also defendants, have budgeted $50,000 for the law firms of Tachau Meek in Louisville and Britton Osborne Johnson in Lexington. Those legal fees will be paid with public funds.

House Republicans, who brought the lawsuit, said they are privately raising funds to pay for their lawyers at Fultz Maddox Hovious & Dickens in Louisville.

"Our attorneys told us to look at a budget of $75,000," House Republican Leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, said Monday. "We've been asking people to help, including friends of members who are going to be adversely affected by the changes in district lines."

The Kentucky Court of Appeals on Monday said the state's highest court should hear the redistricting case because it is "of great and immediate public interest."

Earlier Monday, Snyder, representing legislative leaders, asked the appellate court to set aside Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd's order that declared the districts unconstitutional.

The appeal also asked the court to overturn Shepherd's ruling that election officials must use district lines drawn in 2002 in this year's state legislative elections.

In his appeal, Snyder argued that the General Assembly districts drawn this year in House Bill 1 adhere to U.S. Supreme Court rulings that say the largest district in population must be no more than 10 percent larger than the district with the smallest population.

Shepherd tossed out the new boundaries, saying the districts varied too much from the ideal size and too many counties were split among legislative districts.

Snyder said the appeal should go immediately to the Supreme Court.

The case has created uncertainty among legislators in knowing exactly which districts they will be running from in this year's elections.

There have already been three filing deadlines for legislative candidates. The last one on Feb. 10 was for districts drawn in 2002.

The legislate map in HB 1 was challenged by House Republicans and Democratic state Sen. Kathy Stein of Lexington, whose district initially was moved from inner Lexington to northeastern Kentucky. It is back in Lexington under Shepherd's order, which legislative leaders are appealing.