(The Center Square) – A lawyer for the groups seeking to overturn Wisconsin’s legislative maps didn’t finish his first sentence before one of the state’s conservative justices demanded to know why he was bringing the case now.
“Where were you? Where were your clients two years ago?” Justice Rebecca Bradley asked. “We’ve already been through this. Redistricting happens once every 10 years after the census. All of the issues that you’re bringing actually could have been brought before this court two years ago.”
A number of liberal and progressive groups, with the support of Democrats in Wisconsin, are challenging Wisconsin’s the maps.
The groups say the maps are gerrymandered and favor Republicans. More specifically, they argue that because not every district is 100% connected, those maps are gerrymandered to the point where they are unconstitutional.
Attorney Mark Gaber told Bradley his clients didn’t go to court two years ago because they weren’t yet sure what Wisconsin’s political maps would look like.
“I am unaware of any authority that would say if you don’t raise a constitutional claim in 12 days that you’re forever precluded from raising that claim in the future, when you have no idea that that claim is going to arise for the particular map that is going to be put into place,” Gaber answered.
Bradley didn’t buy that argument.
“Everybody knows that the reason we’re here is because there was a change in membership on the court,” Bradlley said. “You would not have brought this action had the newest justice had lost her election.”
The progressive groups who are challenging the maps announced their lawsuit less than 24 hours after newly elected liberal Justice Janet Protasiewicz was sworn-in on the court.
Protasiewicz faced calls to recuse herself from Tuesday’s case after she called Wisconsin’s political maps “rigged” in favor of Republicans, and “unfair” during her campaign in the spring.
Gaber and the groups want the court to draw new maps and toss out the 2022 election results because every state representative and more than a dozen state senators were elected under what the groups call “malapportioned” boundaries.
“It’s an absolutely extraordinary remedy,” Bradley added. “There are many intonations about democracy throughout the briefing. I can’t imagine something less Democratic than unseating most of the legislature that was just elected last year.”
Taylor Meehan, the lawyer for the Wisconsin legislature, argued many of the same points as Bradley.
“This court invited petitioners to intervene in [the last redistricting case] two years, one month and 15 days ago. They waited. They waited exactly one day after this court’s membership changed to file their unprecedented collateral attack. They have no answer for their delay,” Meehan said.
She said the argument from the progressive groups are “meritless” and a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.”
“[The groups] cannot now cry foul, shortening Wisconsin senators constitutionally prescribed terms and rushing this case to judgment in only a few months time,” Meehan said.
If the court agrees with the argument from the progressive groups, the court will then have to decide how to draw new political.
The court is not saying when a decision in the case will come. The groups who want the new maps are asking to have the maps redrawn before 2024’s elections.