Federal Court Follows Willkie Clients’ Recommendations in Pro Bono NY Redistricting Case

February 28, 2012

A three-judge panel in the Eastern District of New York names U.S. Magistrate Roanne Mann as special master over New York State’s congressional redistricting process.

On February 27, a three-judge panel in the Eastern District of New York ordered U.S. Magistrate Judge Roanne Mann to take control of New York State’s congressional redistricting process in response to a lawsuit filed by a group of civic leaders from around New York who are represented pro bono by Willkie.

Following the 2010 census, New York lost two congressional seats, thus requiring the state to redraw its district lines before the 2012 elections. Recognizing that the state legislature would not and could not draw these new districts in time for the March 20 start of the candidate petitioning period in advance of the primary election, Plaintiffs asked the panel to start drawing its own district lines, to protect the state’s voters from a complete breakdown in the electoral process. The panel agreed.

The three-judge panel charged Judge Mann, acting as a special master, with creating a redistricting plan. In its order, the Court followed Plaintiffs’ recommendation that the districts in the Court’s plan should be of equal population, should be compact and contiguous, should respect political subdivisions such as counties and towns, and should preserve communities of interest. Heeding Plaintiffs’ call that swift action was critical to avoid electoral chaos and prejudice to candidates’ and citizens’ ability to participate meaningfully in the election, the Court set a series of short deadlines with a goal of having congressional districts in place in time for the March 20 start of candidate petitioning. The panel consists of Judges Reena Raggi and Gerard Lynch of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals and Judge Dora Irizarry of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.

The matter, which continues to receive significant media attention, is being handled by partner Richard Mancino; associates Daniel Burstein, Jeffrey Williams, Ian Christy, Laura Spillane and Erin McLeod and legal assistant Rebecca Hutcheon.