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Senate Passes Bill Limiting Court Shopping In Redistricting Cases

When a court challenge does come for the state’s redistricting plan, it may be limited to one of four courts in the state.

The state Senate approved S.8638 in a party line vote Monday, 39-18, shortly after voting not to accept recommended redistricting maps approved recently by the state Independent Redistricting Commission. Democrats will now create new maps for approval, with Republicans expected to challenge those maps.

Currently, redistricting challenges can be brought in any of the state’s 62 Supreme Courts. Under S.8638, challenges would be limited to the First Judicial Department in New York County, the Second Judicial Department in Westchester County, the Third Judicial Department in Albany County or the Fourth Judicial Department in Erie County. At least one of the petitioners in a redistricting challenge would have to live in one of those four counties.

State Sen. George Borrello, R-Sunset Bay, argued the limitation on where redistricting cases can be filed violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees the right to petition the government without consideration of expertise or convenience.

“Why are we doing this?” Borrello asked before casting his vote against S.8638. “Because maybe you got spanked a little bit in 2022. And you don’t like that. So we’re going to change the rules of the game. I get it. You have the right to do so, but not in violation of the U.S. Constitution. Not in violation of the First Amendment. Not so egregious that the people of New York will be limited as to where they can receive justice. I hear a lot about justice from my friends on the other side of the aisle. We want to make sure every person gets justice. But not today. Today, (there are) only four places you can get justice in New York state. That’s wrong. And I’m voting no.”

The Assembly has yet to take up a companion bill, A.435. Sen. Zellnor Myrie, D-Brooklyn, said the legislation is allowed under Article 3, Section 5 of the state constitution and is also similar to the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act that limited where election-related lawsuits can be filed.

“And that was to develop expertise in that court and for there to be unity in how these topics were addressed,” Myrie said. “Additionally last year we passed and was signed by the governor a law that would limit challenges to the constitutionality of election laws in a similar fashion in certain jurisdictions. So this is an attempt for us to fulfill our constitutional duty and to bring some clarity to the process when bringing lawsuits.”

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