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Molina v. County of Orange

United States District Court, Second Circuit

June 14, 2013

ANN MOLINA, Plaintiff,


EDGARDO RAMOS, District Judge.

To help ensure the fair, orderly and lawful election of Representatives in the County of Orange, New York, the Court hereby adopts Special Master Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick's Report and Recommendations of June 3, 2013 (the "Special Master's Plan"), Dkt. 6, as modified by her Supplemental Report and Recommendations of June 13, 2013 (the "Special Master's Supplemental Plan"), Dkt. 9. The Special Master's Plan divides the County into 21 districts based upon the 2010 census, and complies with the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1973, et seq .

I. Procedural History

a. The 2010 Census & Legislative Deadlock

In 2010, the Bureau of the Census conducted a census of the United States. See U.S. Const. art. I, § 2, cl. 3. The census results indicated that the total population for Orange County was 371, 284. Accordingly, for the purposes of creating County legislative districts, the "target population" for each district was 17, 680.[1] Special Master Plan at 2. Using the target population as a mean, the data revealed that several existing legislative districts deviated from the 2010 target population by more than plus or minus 5%. For example, existing Legislative District 1 has a current approximate population of 22, 945, which is 29.78% above the targeted population and Legislative District 4 has a population of 15, 135, which is 14.39% below the targeted mean. Id ., Exhibit 2.

When the results of the 2010 census were released, Orange County, consistent with its County Charter (Article II, § 2.08), was required to begin the process of redistricting its legislative districts to comply with the federal requirements of "one person, one vote" and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Id . at 1. However, the process of redistricting did not begin until the latter part of 2012, when the Orange County Planning Department was instructed by the Chair of the Legislature to enumerate the population of the County and prepare preliminary redistricting maps for the legislative committee handling the redistricting process. A preliminary map was prepared which included 21 legislative districts, each with a population as close to the target population of 17, 680 as possible. Id ., Exhibit 3 (Map Version 1). Working from this version, several iterations of the map were produced by the Planning Department. Id ., Exhibits 4 (Map Version 2), 5 (Map Version 3) and 9 (Map Version 4).

The fourth version of the map, which included a Latino majority district in the City of Newburgh and a Latino plurality district in the City of Middletown, id ., Exhibit 9, was presented to the full Legislature at a legislative session on April 5, 2013 for their approval or rejection. 20 out of 21 legislators were present that day, and the vote was 10 in favor of the plan and 10 against; this resulted in the rejection of the map. Id ., Exhibit 11. Afterwards, a fifth version of the map was prepared, id ., Exhibit 12, but, the Rules Committee of the County Legislature declined to present the map for discussion at its meeting of April 23, 2013; it was resolved that the upcoming general election for County legislators, scheduled to be held in November 2013, should be based on existing 2005 district lines. Id . at 5-6. The existing 21 legislative districts were created in 2005 using the 2000 census data. Id . at 1.

b. Judicial Intervention

On May 6, 2013, Plaintiff Ann Molina commenced this action against Orange County. Dkt. 2. Plaintiff is a voter who resides in Legislative District 14, which has a population of 21, 629 and, accordingly, deviates by 22.34% from the target population. Plaintiff alleges that her vote, as well as the vote of other residents in her legislative district, is "minimized and diluted" when compared with the residents of other districts. Accordingly, Plaintiff alleges one claim under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution: a one-person, one-vote challenge to the County's plan as a whole. Also, although not specifically enumerated in the Complaint, Plaintiff appears to challenge the County's plan pursuant to Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Also on May 6, by way of Order to Show Cause, Dkt. 1, Plaintiff sought a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction requesting, inter alia : (1) the enjoining of the upcoming November 2013 election for the County Legislature; (2) the enjoining of any primary elections using the current 2005 legislative districts; and (3) appointing a Special Master to promptly recommend a new legislative map. Id .

On May 10, the parties appeared before the Court for a hearing on the Order to Show Cause. The parties reached agreement on certain matters, and on May 14, on consent of the parties, the Court ordered as follows:

1. The 2013 elections for the Orange County Legislature shall not be held based upon the legislative districts established in 2005, in reliance upon the 2000 census.
2. The schedule previously established by which candidates for the County Legislature circulate designating petitions, challenge other candidates' petitions and allow administrative and judicial resolution of any such challenges cannot be practically adhered to and is hereby preliminarily enjoined. The Board of Elections of the County of Orange is so enjoined, solely to the extent set forth herein, and may otherwise discharge its duties with respect to all elections which are not dependent upon the redistricting demanded in the Complaint filed in this matter.
3. Because the election of County Committee members for both the Republican and Conservative Parties relies upon the 2000 census, and the parties have stipulated as such, petitioning for said positions is also enjoined pending the development and approval of a constitutionally compliant redistricting map for the Orange County Legislature.

By way of the same Order, this Court appointed the Honorable Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick, Counsel to Greenberg Traurig LLP, as Special Master, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 53(a)(1)(A) and 65. Dkt. 5. The Court instructed the Special Master, inter alia , to "propose a new set of legislative districts that are in compliance with the principles of one person/one vote and the Voting Rights Act of 1965" and to "make every effort to provide the Court with a proposed map by or before June 3, 2013." The Order also instructed the County Planning Department to assist the Special Master, and authorized the Planning Department to develop one or more maps consistent with the law and to present the same to the Special Master. Id . at 3.

c. Work of the Special Master & Special Master's Plan

Special Master Ciparick worked closely with the Planning Department, and received assistance from Commissioner David Church and planners Megan Tennerman and Matthew Ryan. She also retained Henry M. Greenberg, Esq., a shareholder at Greenberg Traurig, to assist in the redistricting process.

On May 23, Special Master Ciparick held a meeting with the Planning Commissioner, the two planners, the lawyers for the parties, as well as David Darwin, County Attorney, and Henry Greenberg from Greenberg Traurig. According to Special Master Ciparick, the meeting was productive and yielded what she believed to be a fair resolution of the controversy and a constitutional re-drawing of the Legislative District lines. Special Master Plan at 7-8.

On June 3, 2013, Special Master Ciparick filed her Report and Recommendations with the Court. In her report, the Special Master noted that the parties were in agreement with her proposed redistricting plan. Id . at 15-16. The Special Master made recommendations for all existing 21 districts; however, the major changes to the Orange County legislative map occurred in Legislative Districts 4 and 6, which are part of the City of Newburgh and which have substantial Latino and African-American communities.[2] Specifically, the Special Master noted:

Information received during the redistricting process implied that the residents of the City of Newburgh were concerned about the balance of racial and ethnic groups as represented in the city's legislative districts (Legislative Districts 4 and 6); specifically, the residents wanted to ensure that African-Americans and Latinos were proportionally represented in each of the city's districts.
In order to create two districts that have a majority nonwhite population and a representation of African-Americans and Latinos in each district that is proportional to their representation in the city, each of the districts must contain election districts located outside the city, instead of one district entirely within the ...

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