Judge lets legislators comment in lawsuit

Posted: Thursday, November 01, 2001

Alaska's Legislature will be allowed to participate in a lawsuit over the state's new political boundaries, but only on a limited basis.

Anchorage Superior Court Judge Mark Rinder dismissed the Legislature from a lawsuit challenging the new redistricting map in an order issued last week. But Rinder said the legislative body may file what's called a "friend of the court" brief.

That means the GOP-controlled Legislature can argue its objection to the map that pits 20 Republican incumbents against each other, but may not participate in the trial.

"They can watch, but not play," said Philip R. Volland, the attorney defending the state's new redistricting map.

Volland had asked Rinder to dismiss the Legislature from the case because it missed a court-imposed deadline to file its lawsuit. He also argued that it had no right to be involved in the case.

The Alaska Constitution allows any qualified voter to sue in Superior Court to correct errors within 30 days of the final adoption of the plan.

Volland argued that individual legislators are affected by the map but the Legislature's ability to make laws is unaffected.

The ruling is expected to have minimal impact on the case since House Speaker Brian Porter and Senate President Rick Halford, both Republicans, are already involved in the lawsuit. So too is Republican Party Chairman Randy Ruedrich.

Nine lawsuits have been filed by communities and Republican leaders objecting to the new plan approved by the Alaska Redistricting Board in June. A new legislative map is drawn every 10 years following the U.S. Census.



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