Ninth Circuit Issues Important Decision on Judging Legislative Motivation in Racial Gerrymandering Case

Courthouse News Service:

Los Angeles residents did not adequately show race was the main factor in the last round of redistricting or that the districts were redrawn to benefit the LA City Council’s current president, a Ninth Circuit panel held Monday.

In two separate lawsuits, residents claimed that the city’s district maps – redrawn every 10 years after the U.S. Census to account for changes in population and demographics – “artificially split” neighborhoods, including LA’s Koreatown, and unfairly created a Latino-majority district in order to protect incumbent council members.,,,

In a 25-page opinion, U.S. Circuit Judge Jacqueline Nguyen said the residents failed to show race played a significant role in the city’s process for drawing final boundaries in its 2012 redistricting.

“This evidence certainly shows that race was a motivation in drawing CD 10. For [redistricting commissioner Christopher] Ellison and Wesson, it may have even been the only motivation. Ellison never offered any justification other than race for his proposed boundaries. But the relevant inquiry is whether ‘race was the predominant factor motivating the legislature’s decision’ as to the final boundaries,” Nguyen wrote for the panel.

“And here, plaintiffs have not made the requisite showing to raise a genuine dispute of fact. Had Ellison been the final decision maker, then on this record plaintiffs may have been able to make a compelling showing of predominance. However, Ellison and Wesson were only two people in a process that incorporated multiple layers of decisions and alterations from the entire commission, as well as the City Council.”

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