Attorneys for the majority parties in the Senate and Assembly still contend there is enough time for the Legislature to act on a redistricting plan on its own, but asked a panel of judges to limit its purview to congressional maps if it decides to get involved.
In a joint court filing made on Friday, the attorneys representing Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, R-Nassau County, urged the the panel to stay out of the once-a-decade redistricting process for the time being. Appointing a “special master” to redraw New York’s state and congressional district lines would “put the cart before the horse,” the attorneys wrote.
But the attorneys do acknowledge the timetable for congressional lines has been compacted by a federal judge’s decision to move New York’s federal primary to June 26. The primary date for state legislative races is Sept. 11, which gives lawmakers plenty of time to act on their own for Senate and Assembly districts, they argue.
“In all events, the Court should limit its consideration of appointing a special master to the congressional context,” they wrote. “That redistricting obviously must be given highest priority in light of the current primary schedule, and will occupy the Court, the parties, and any special master, while according the Legislature due time to enact State Assembly and State Senate plans.”
Still, Senate Republicans and Assembly Democrats don’t like the idea of a special master getting involved. U.S. District Court Judge Dora Irizarry last week asked an appeals court to appoint a three-judge panel — which she now sits on — to consider appointing someone to draw new district lines because lawmakers weren’t making sufficient progress.
“Nonetheless, it is still somewhat premature to commence the judicial remedial process and, in all events, that process should not commence with authorizing a special master to start line-drawing — that process should commence only after the Court, with input from the parties, establishes the substantive and procedural guidelines governing the special master’s work,” the Senate GOP and Assembly Democrats’ attorneys wrote.
Along with the Legislature’s redistricting panel and the lawmakers who sit on it, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy are both named as defendants in the original lawsuit that asked for a special master. A filing from the state attorney general’s office, also logged Friday, notes that “Cuomo and Duffy take no position on this issue.”
Here’s the joint filing from Assembly Democrats and the Senate GOP: