Judge denies State’s motion to pause Utah’s gerrymander lawsuit
Aug 23, 2022, 6:37 PM | Updated: 6:50 pm
(Laura Seitz, Deseret News)
SALT LAKE CITY — The lawsuit claiming that Utah’s new congressional district boundaries are being unconstitutionally gerrymandered will move forward in court.
On Monday’s court order, 3rd District Judge Dianna M. Gibson denied the Utah State Legislature and Utah Attorney General’s office lawyers’ motion-to-stay request citing the lawyer’s reasoning had no basis for this case.
On July 21, the state’s lawyers requested the pause in the Utah lawsuit because of the pending United States Supreme Court’s review of a North Carolina case involving voter ID and Black voters, claiming that decision will dispose of the plaintiffs’ claims.
However, the attorneys representing the plaintiffs, the League of Women Voters of Utah and Mormon Women for Ethical Government, argued that the North Carolina case would not resolve all issues in the Utah case as it is in a different state with its own constitution and legal claims.
The attorneys also worry that the Utah case will not be resolved before the 2024 election if the North Carolina case does not determine their lawsuit as the defendants claim.
“It is possible that [the North Carolina case] “‘may'” have an impact on this case,” Gibson’s order states, “however, that impact is unclear.”
Gibson stated there is no timeline on when the North Carolina case will resolve, and if it does, there is no guarantee that the Supreme Court decision will affect this case.
“In balancing the competing interests, the mere possibility that the Supreme Court’s future decision in [the North Carolina case] may resolve some of the issues in this case does not outweigh the risk of denying the Plaintiffs the opportunity to seek timely relief,” Gibson’s order states.
On March 17, the plaintiffs filed the lawsuit against the state, claiming the Legislature adopted a gerrymandered congressional map.
“In 2018, Utah voters passed Proposition 4, a bipartisan citizen initiative that, among other reforms, prohibited partisan gerrymander,” reads the lawsuit. “In 2020, the Utah Legislature repealed Prop. 4, negating its reforms, in particular, the prohibition on partisan gerrymandering.”
Oral arguments for the defendant’s motion to stay were planned for Wednesday, along with the defendant’s motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s lawsuit. The hearing for the motion to dismiss is still scheduled.
“The people of Utah will have their day in court,” Katie Wright, executive director of Better Boundaries, a nonpartisan coalition that argued for an independent redistricting commission, said in a statement Tuesday. “We are energized by today’s decision in the Third District Court denying the State Legislatures’ motion to stay and delay justice. Legal maneuvering by the legislature remained unsuccessful and the voice of Utahns will be heard in court tomorrow.”
— Better Boundaries (@BBforUT) August 23, 2022