Colby Hamilton, Writer, WNYC News
Colby Hamilton is a general assignment reporter. He originally joined WNYC as a political blogger. He's a proud graduate of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.
Last night a federal judge gave a lawsuit filed by a group of voters, and supported by numerous civic and good government groups, to have the courts take over the redistricting process.
But today the defendants in the case Judge Dora Irizarry issued her opinion on last night say the move was more procedure than declaration.
"She just convened the three judge court, which everyone had agreed she needed to do," said Michael Carvin, who's working on behalf of LATFOR defendants in the case. "This is just sort of the next shoe dropping. This is no big deal."
Carvin, who put the legal heavy weight behind the creation of a 63rd Senate district, says he feels the focus in the press on Irizarry's request for the appointment of a special master to take over the redistricting process is overblown.
"Obviously that's what people are talking about, but that's a decision for the three judge court," he said. "I don't even know if it's a recommendation if you parse her sentence. She's saying that you need to consider this and obviously everybody agrees that you need to consider it."
While Irizarry agreed with the plaintiffs' concern the redistricting process is moving at a dangerously slow pace, Carvin said the next legal steps are really determined by what LATFOR ends up doing.
"We're going to take a very practical approach: Do you have time to draw lines and how probable is it that the legislature is going to enact something," he asked. "If the legislature enacts something this is all moot."
Carvin did acknowledge that, unlike the appearance given by legislators in Albany, the new district lines for congress is really the issue most pressing for the court: "The obvious point is that congress needs to go first because they're under tighter time deadlines. There's no time crunch at all for the state legislative lines."
The lawyers working on behalf of some of the plaintiffs in the case called the judge's opinion "a major step forward" in having the redistricting process get handled by a judicially-appointed special master.
A person close to the legal efforts on the plaintiff's side pushed back on the suggestion that the judge's opinion was of small significance:
Until the court is convinced that New York will have a plan that’s voted on, signed by the Governor, and approved by the justice department in time for congressional petitioning on March 20, then all bets on the legislature getting its job done are off.