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Judge Denies Lawmakers’ Bid To Join Redistricting Lawsuit

Sacramento, CA — Democratic lawmakers won´t be allowed to join the attorney general´s lawsuit that seeks to strike a redistricting initiative from the November special election ballot, a judge ruled Thursday.

Judge Gail Ohanesian rejected the motion by Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata and Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez to join the lawsuit, but said Californians for Fair Representation, which is opposed to Proposition 77, could participate.

Attorney General Bill Lockyer filed the lawsuit last week, claiming that supporters of Proposition 77 violated the state Constitution by significantly changing the wording of the initiative after it was approved by state officials for circulation.

The initiative is one of three put on the Nov. 8 special election ballot by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. It would give the power to draw legislative and congressional district boundaries to a panel of retired judges – a responsibility that´s currently in the hands of lawmakers.

“The judge felt the interests of (Californians for Fair Representation) was more direct than those of the others,” said Lance Olson, the attorney for both the lawmakers and the anti-Proposition 77 group.

Another interested party, the Committee for an Independent Voice, also was denied intervener status at Thursday´s hearing.

Harriet Hoffman, the group´s statewide coordinator, said her organization supports the initiative and wants to see it remain on the ballot. The group only asked to be named a party in the suit after lawmakers applied to be involved, Hoffman said.

A hearing on the fate of the initiative is scheduled July 21 in Sacramento County Superior Court.

Bill Mundell, chairman of Californians for Fair Redistricting, a group that gathered signatures to put the redistricting initiative on the ballot, said he felt confident the ballot initiative would survive next week´s hearing.

“Frankly, it´s irrelevant who joins the suit because it´s a frivolous lawsuit,” he said.