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Eye On Boise

Redistricters spar over lawsuit and whether taxpayers should foot legal bill

On last night's "Dialogue" program on Idaho Public Television, Idaho redistricting commissioners Lou Esposito and George Moses were asked whether they think the redistricting commission should pay for the GOP commissioners' lawyers in their separate legal challenge, which was filed in addition to the Secretary of State's request for a writ of mandamus after the commission failed to agree on legislative and congressional district plans by its Tuesday deadline.


Esposito, a Republican, said, "We don't see it as a suit, really, and it's semantics, but we really do see it as a petition. ... We paid for all the initial filings and all the work out of our own pockets, the commissioners did. If this does become a protracted suit and we end up getting the specific guidance that gets us to a resolution, I'm confident that we'll end up having the attorney fees compensated by the state."


"I'm less confident of that," responded Moses, a Democrat. "I know that there are state officials who aren't real pleased about the idea of the state continuing to shell out six figures of money to private lawyers for stuff that's essentially state business. ... Procedurally, the commission never voted to hire any outside counsel like this, and it would take that in order to be able to pay someone. And you can understand why Democratic commissioners would be less than eager to pay to bring a suit like this one."


The Republican commissioners' lawsuit asks the court to adopt proposed Republican redistricting plans as superior to those proposed by Democratic commissioners. Esposito said, "Quite honestly, when we were putting all this together ... our attorney, who is one of the top attoreys in the country on this ... he posed the question ... do you want to ask the justices to approve a map? And we came to the conclusion, you know, it just doesn't hurt to ask sometimes, so we decided to ask."


Moses said, "The map that they've asked the court to adopt is a map that was presented to the commission in the last hour of deliberations. We never had a chance to look at it, we certainly never got to a point where we could vote on it, and now the Republican suit is asking the court essentially to pre-empt the commission and adopt a map that the commissioners never had a chance to consider. "


You can watch the full Dialogue program, plus a continued "Web Extra" discussion, online here.

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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