facebook linkedin twitter

Redistricting Panel’s Closed-Door Meeting Leads to Lawsuit

December 17, 2021 by Dan McCue
Redistricting Panel’s Closed-Door Meeting Leads to Lawsuit
Kurtis Wilder

LANSING, Mich. — A number of media organizations are suing Michigan’s redistricting commission over its members’ decision to hold a closed-door meeting in October and then bar disclosure of several memos citing attorney-client privilege. 

The Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, nonprofit Bridge Michigan and Michigan Press Association argue the private review of memos by the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission violated its constitutional duty to conduct its business in the open.

The legal memos in question were entitled “Voting Rights Act” and “The History of Discrimination in the State of Michigan and its Influence on Voting.”

During a virtual hearing this week, attorney Kurtis Wilder said the media outlets don’t contest the commission’s right to counsel, but said the panel’s actions smacked of it trying to hide behind attorney-client privilege at the mere threat of litigation.  


“The fact that there could be a lawsuit at some point in time over some of the maps — if that was enough to attach privilege, that would swallow transparency whole,” Wilder said.

He also challenged the commission’s argument that the documents did not inform the 13-member panel’s mapping process, arguing commissioners couldn’t draw maps in a manner that complies with the Voting Rights Act without understanding the history.

“Clearly they relied upon these two memos,” Wilder said.

But David Fink, an attorney for the commission, said the panel has conducted a transparent mapping process that has included more than 100 public meetings and that there was nothing wrong with asserting attorney-client privilege at a single meeting.

He went on to argue that the memos in question played no direct role in the mapping process.


“I could envision a process, a context in which there’s some indication that the attorney-client privilege is being abused,” he said. “I don’t think anybody looks at this and says, ‘Oh, this is a secretive process.’ This is an incredibly open process with exactly one closed session.”

Wilder pushed back, contending that until a lawsuit has been filed or is imminent “all the work of the commission must be done in the view of the public, subject to public scrutiny.” 

He went on to say that when Michigan voters approved the constitutional amendment that established the redistricting commission in 2018, they expected transparency throughout the mapping process. 

“In other words, the people told the commission that it has to show its homework before it can receive a final grade,” he said. 

The commission is currently scheduled to take a final vote on a proposed map on Dec. 28, and lawyers for both sides have asked the Michigan Supreme Court for a swift decision given that deadline.

The media outlets want the court to order the release of recordings from the closed session meeting and legal memos provided to commissioners that have been kept confidential.

Following the hearing, Nancy Wang, executive director of Voters Not Politicians, a group that backed the constitutional amendment, said in a statement, “Voters Not Politicians supports the efforts by Michigan media to pursue the release of the Voting Rights Act memos and we appreciate the Michigan Supreme Court’s swift attention to this matter. 


“Voters established the commission to bring redistricting out into the open. Anything that informs the commission’s mapping decisions should be made public,” Wang said.

Dan can be reached at [email protected] and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue

A+
a-

In The News

Health

Voting

In The States

May 18, 2022
by Dan McCue
Kansas Supreme Court Upholds Controversial Redistricting Maps

TOPEKA, Kan. — The Kansas Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld a Republican-drawn congressional map that divides a racially diverse portion... Read More

TOPEKA, Kan. — The Kansas Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld a Republican-drawn congressional map that divides a racially diverse portion of the Kansas City metropolitan area, despite concerns the new district lines will dilute the minority vote. As previously reported in The Well News, the lawsuit... Read More

May 18, 2022
by Reece Nations
Cawthorn Ousted as North Carolinians Pick Their November Nominees

RALEIGH, N.C. — Matchups for North Carolina's general elections were revealed late on Tuesday as the state's primary results rolled... Read More

RALEIGH, N.C. — Matchups for North Carolina's general elections were revealed late on Tuesday as the state's primary results rolled in. Perhaps the biggest election night surprise came as incumbent GOP Rep. Madison Cawthorn conceded the 11th Congressional District race to state Sen. Chuck Edwards. The... Read More

May 17, 2022
by Reece Nations
California Fights Inflation With Relief Package, Minimum Wage Bump 

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Californians are getting help addressing the costs of rising inflation through a higher minimum wage and a... Read More

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Californians are getting help addressing the costs of rising inflation through a higher minimum wage and a new relief package proposal from Gov. Gavin Newsom. California's minimum wage will rise to $15.50 per hour next year under a state law passed in 2016... Read More

Pennsylvania Governor Race Divides Republicans, Unites Dems

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — As Pennsylvania Republicans prepare to choose a nominee for governor Tuesday, some party officials are twisted... Read More

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — As Pennsylvania Republicans prepare to choose a nominee for governor Tuesday, some party officials are twisted in knots over the possibility of a primary victory by a candidate many see as too far to the right to win statewide this fall. Doug... Read More

Buffalo Shooter's Prior Threat, Hospital Stay Under Scrutiny

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — The white gunman accused of committing a racist massacre at a Buffalo supermarket made threatening comments that brought... Read More

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — The white gunman accused of committing a racist massacre at a Buffalo supermarket made threatening comments that brought police to his high school last spring, but he was never charged with a crime and had no further contact with law enforcement after his release... Read More

Parishioners Subdue Gunman in Fatal California Church Attack

LAGUNA WOODS, Calif. (AP) — A man opened fire during a lunch reception at a Southern California church, killing one... Read More

LAGUNA WOODS, Calif. (AP) — A man opened fire during a lunch reception at a Southern California church, killing one person and wounding five senior citizens before a pastor hit the gunman on the head with a chair and parishioners hog-tied him with electrical cords. Jerry... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top