Monday, February 26, 2018

Why WI GOP gerrymander defender is close to WI. Sup. Ct. seat

Wisconsin Republicans have a jaw-dropping bank shot lined up involving all three branches of government.

At the same time the US Supreme Court is preparing to rule on the constitutionality of the GOP's secretively-drafted 2011 gerrymandered redistricting plan - - a scheme that has helped keep Republican legislators n power, Michael Screnock - - who as a private attorney helped defend that redistricting plan - - just won the February primary election for a seat on the State Supreme Court.

How does that look? - - elevating to the State Supreme Court's doorstep and perhaps to a justiceship one of the defenders of a legislative redistricting already ruled unconstitutional by a three-judge US District Court panel.

And some observers feel after 2017 arguments that the US Supreme Court may rule that the redistricting scheme unconstitutional. 

Opponents of political gerrymandering had reason for optimism at the Supreme Court on Tuesday, with Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, the likely swing vote, appearing more in sync with liberal colleagues who seemed convinced that a legislative map can be so infected with political bias that it violates the Constitution.
Were these scenarios to unfold - - a Screnock State Supreme Court win and a loss at the US Supreme Court for the redistricting plan he defended - - drive another stake into the already-tattered reputation of the State Supreme Court.

Here are some admittedly brief highlights in a long, controversial timeline:

* Following the 2010 elections and census, Republicans controlling the Legislature undertook redistricting with the help of a brace of private attorneys. 

* The redistricting's maps results were blatantly partisan, litigation ensured, and the defense of the gerrymander was so messy that fines were levied by a frustrated federal judge. 

Nonetheless, the plan remained in force after two districts' boundaries were redrawn.

* Meanwhile, Gov. Walker appointed then-still-private attorney Screnock from among six applicants to an open seat on the Sauk County District Court in 2015.

Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, among others, noted at the time that Screnock had been connected to the redistricting case along with Atty. James Troupis whom Walker similarly named to fill a judicial vacancy in Dane County:

They were also among the lawyers hired in 2011 by majority Republican lawmakers to successfully defend a plan that redrew legislative district boundaries to generally favor Republicans in elections through at least 2020.
*  Meanwhile, attorneys for Democrats won a fresh, 2-1 ruling against the scheme by a three-judge Federal panel.
The judges found Republicans had gone overboard in taking partisanship into account in drawing the maps, thus violating the free association rights and the guarantee of equal protection under the law. The judges noted Republicans created a special measure to calculate the likelihood they would win particular districts and labeled maps they drew that benefited Republicans as "assertive" and "aggressive."
*  And that ruling, disputed by Walker and Attorney General Brad Schimel, is what is now before the US Supreme Court. 

So while all parties await the US Supreme Court's decision likely later his year, it would be bizarre but instructive of Wisconsin politics if the GOP's redistricting scheme which has helped Walker get what he wants from a hyper-partisan State Legislature were ruled unconstitutional while one of that scheme's defenders ended up on the State Supreme Court because Walker gave him judicial visibility and electoral credibility.

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