News Coverage on Redistricting Prisoners

Thomson Reuters

Direct appeal denied in NY inmate redistricting case

Jessica Dye
Tuesday, February 14, 2012


NEW YORK, Feb 14 (Reuters) - The New York Court of Appeals on Tuesday declined to hear a direct appeal of a ruling upholding the constitutionality of a state law requiring prison inmates to be counted as residents of their hometown for the purpose of drawing legislative boundaries.

The law, passed in 2010, requires all prisoners to be counted as residents of their home communities, not the town of their incarceration -- a practice known as "prison gerrymandering."

A group of Republican state senators brought a lawsuit challenging the law, arguing that it violated New York's constitution. But in December, Supreme Court Justice Eugene Devine of Albany County rejected that claim and found the law was constitutional.

The plaintiffs sought to bypass intermediary appellate review and take their case straight to New York's top court for review. But with Tuesday's decision, the appeal will now go to the Appellate Division, Third Department.

"The opponents of this law lost the policy debate in the legislature, and their efforts to reinstate the old unjust practice of prison gerrymandering have so far been unsuccessful in the courts," attorneys for New York voters defending the law said in a statement. "We look forward to defending this vital law at the appellate division."

A lawyer for the plaintiffs did not immediately return a request for comment Tuesday afternoon.

New York voters who intervened to defend the law are represented by various legal advocacy groups, including the Brennan Center for Justice, the Center for Law & Justice, the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and the New York Civil Liberties Union.

The groups argued that returning to pre-2010 methods for counting inmates would unfairly inflate the populations of districts where prisons are located. They also have said that prison gerrymandering effectively dilutes the votes of minority communities with high percentages of residents who are incarcerated elsewhere in the state.

The case is Senator Elizabeth Little et al v. New York State Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment (LATFOR), in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, Albany County, No. 2310-2011.

For plaintiffs: David Lewis of Lewis & Fiore.

For intervenor-defendant NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund: Dale Ho.

For intervenor-defendant Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law School: Myrna Perez.

For New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision: Stephen Kerwin, of counsel to the Attorney General's office.



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