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Redistricting Judges to Lawyers: Get to Work

graphic by: Todd Wiseman/Texas Tribune

With hearings on redistricting scheduled for next week and deadlines for April primaries pending, a panel of federal judges told lawyers Friday afternoon to redouble their efforts to reach a quick settlement on interim political maps for the state's congressional and legislative elections.

That's not the first time they've told the lawyers to talk, but negotiations stalled this week when the state and some plaintiffs reached an agreement that several other plaintiffs didn't like.

In their order this afternoon, the judges said that proposal is still very much alive. They said they want to set an April primary. And they want negotiations to resume "with all due effort" before the hearings that begin next Tuesday.

The court's Friday order:

As the parties know, the Court will hold a hearing on this matter on Tuesday, February 14, 2012, and quite possibly Wednesday, February 15, 2012. Contrary to any misconceptions, neither the State's recent compromise proposal nor any of the parties' proposals have been rejected at this juncture. It is the Court's desire to have redistricting plans in place for an April primary and all parties must continue their negotiations to assist the Court in accomplishing that task. If the parties have ceased negotiations, they should resume with all due effort between now and the time of the hearing. In their negotiations, the parties should be reminded of the dictates of the Supreme Court by which this Court will  be bound, which include the rather flexible standards of review that may be applied on one hand and the restrictive language regarding the creation of new coalition districts on the other hand. Should the parties fail to reach an agreement prior to the hearing, the parties will be expected to resume negotiations at the courthouse upon conclusion of the hearing. The panel will accomodate the parties in what ever way necessary, and all necessary parties are expected to have a person with binding settlement authority either in attendance or available by telephone.

Ross Ramsey is managing editor of The Texas Tribune and continues as editor of Texas Weekly, the premier newsletter on government and politics in the Lone Star State, a role he's had since September 1998. Texas Weekly was a print-only journal when he took the reins in 1998; he switched it to a subscription-based, internet-only journal by the end of 2004 without a significant loss in subscribers. As Texas Weekly's primary writer for 11 years, he turned out roughly 2 million words in more than 500 editions, added an online library of resources and documents and items of interest to insiders, and a daily news clipping service that links to stories from papers across Texas. Before joining Texas Weekly in September 1998, Ramsey was associate deputy comptroller for policy with the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, also working as the agency's director of communications. Prior to that 28-month stint in government, Ramsey spent 17 years in journalism, reporting for the Houston Chronicle from its Austin bureau and for the Dallas Times Herald, first on the business desk in Dallas and later as the paper's Austin bureau chief. Prior to that, as a Dallas-based freelance business writer, he wrote for regional and national magazines and newspapers. Ramsey got his start in journalism in broadcasting, working for almost seven years covering news for radio stations in Denton and Dallas.
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