Friday, June 15, 2012

Chancellor Goldin Rules for Single-Member Commission Districts

Posted By on Fri, Jun 15, 2012 at 7:45 AM

Chancellor Arnold Goldin
  • Chancellor Arnold Goldin
The Flyer has learned that Chancellor Arnold Goldin has entered a summary judgment order that would end the prolonged redistricting controversy on the Shelby County Commission, ruling in favor of Commission Plan 2-J, which would divide the county into 13 single-member Commission districts.

The plan was one of many that were considered by the Commission beginning in mid-2011. Discussion was contentious, with several members preferring a multi-member format similar to the one which has pertained up until now and others preferring single-member plans of various kinds.

When no plan had been approved by the end of last year, several commissioners filed suit in Chancery Court, asking Judge Goldin to impose a solution. He put the ball back in the Commission's court, requesting commissioners to keep trying.

Of several plans discussed, Plan 2-J was the most successful in attracting Aye votes, but on third reading recently failed to get 9 votes on the 13-member body, the two-thirds supermajority of commissioners required by the county charter. The plan did, however, garner 7 votes on the Commission.

State law requires only a simple majority of the members of a legislative body engaged in redistricting, and Chancellor Goldin has declared in a summary judgment on behalf of the plaintiffs that state law had precedence over the requirements of the county charter, giving the final green light to 2-J.

It is important to note (and Chancellor Goldin does so, in a footnote) that that portion of the ruling that gives priority to state law over the county charter is applicable only to the issue of redistricting, the relevant precedents and permutations of which the ruling focuses on at some length. As the judge carefully points out, "No other provision of the charter is before the court nor is the validity of any other provision of the charter being challenged or interpreted."

Which is to say, those aspects of taxation which the charter requires a commission supermajority in order to be levied are left intact. This had been a concern of two of the original plaintiffs, Mike Ritz and Terry Roland, who had withdrawn from the suit when the issue before Goldin seemed likely to contrast state law and the counter charter. (Roland had subsequently re-submitted 2-J to begin a new round of Commission readings on it.)

The third original plaintiff, Walter Bailey, continued to press the litigation, however.

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