Supreme Court Watch

Redistricting Commission picks high profile lawyer

By Jeremy Duda
The Daily Record Newswire
PHOENIX — The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission will once again take on a big-name Washington, D.C., attorney to argue its case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The commission voted unanimously on Tuesday to retain Paul Smith of the firm Jenner and Block to represent it later this year when the high court hears a challenge to the legislative districts it drew in 2011 and 2012. The firm will work pro bono, according to IRC counsel Joe Kanefield.

Smith brings an impressive resume to the case. He chairs Jenner and Block’s federal appellate and Supreme Court practices, and has argued 16 cases in front of the Supreme Court, according to the law firm’s website. His victories at the high court include Lawrence v. Texas, the landmark 2003 ruling that struck down anti-sodomy laws as unconstitutional.

Kanefield noted that Jenner and Block has extensive experience in election-related litigation, particularly in redistricting issues in Florida, Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Texas.

“Having spoken with them about this case, we are convinced that they would provide excellent representation to the council, given the issues that are going to be decided by the Supreme Court,” Kanefield said.

Smith will help the IRC fend off a challenge from conservative activists alleging that the commission illegally overpopulated some Republican legislative districts and underpopulated other districts in order to give Democrats an edge. The commission argues that the decisions were made in order to comply with the Voting Rights Act.

The commission previously hired Seth Waxman, who served as solicitor general under President Clinton, to represent it at the U.S. Supreme Court in a lawsuit brought by the Legislature to challenge the IRC’s authority to draw congressional districts. The Legislature had argued that the U.S. Constitution grants congressional redistricting authority exclusively to state legislatures, but the Supreme Court ruled in June that the IRC is permitted to draw those lines as well.