Supreme Court redistricting bill clears first round

Senators advanced from general file May 12 the first of six redistricting bills that lawmakers will consider this session.

LB699, introduced by the Redistricting Committee, would redraw boundary lines for the six judicial districts of the Nebraska Supreme Court.

Under guidelines adopted in LR102, district lines are to be drawn in accordance with 2010 census data and adhere as closely as possible to the principle of one person, one vote.

Sen. Chris Langemeier of Schuyler, chairperson of the committee, said census data indicated that each district should contain approximately 304,000 people. He said that all of the six districts deviate less than 1 percent from that goal.

Lincoln Sen. Bill Avery, a member of the redistricting committee, said representatives of the state bar association testified against the committee’s plan. He said the bar association suggested that boundary lines should reflect the number of lawyers within a proposed district, a position Avery rejected.

“There is nothing, nothing, I repeat, in our procedures that would allow us to consider occupations of the residents of those districts,” he said.

Sen. Danielle Conrad of Lincoln, also a committee member, said the bar association’s plan was mischaracterized as an attempt to change the redistricting standard to “one lawyer, one vote.”

Supreme Court justices are appointed from the ranks of attorneys in a given judicial district, she said, which may allow for other considerations than simple population equality.

“It’s clear in case law that there is a separate and distinct difference between legislative districts and Supreme Court districts,” she said.

Committee member Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh of Omaha said that one person, one vote should remain a priority for judicial districts because Supreme Court justices face periodic retention votes after their appointments.

LB699 advanced to select file on 34-0 vote.

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