Greensboro racks up tab in redistricting lawsuit

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The city of Greensboro is currently embroiled in a legal battle thanks to politicians in Raleigh who tried to redraw the city council districts along partisan and racial lines. On July 2, the General Assembly passed a bill that redrew eight districts in the city. Greensboro residents claim this was simply an attempt at gerrymandering and that it infringes on the city's right of self-governance. If not for the political overreach by lawmakers, hundreds of thousands of dollars could have been saved. 

Read more at the Winston-Salem Journal 

City taxpayers have spent more than $157,000 to fight the state legislature’s new voting districts for Greensboro City Council elections.

The tab includes extensive — and ongoing — prep work for the city’s lawsuit in U.S. Middle District Court in Greensboro. That suit seeks to stop the redistricting from taking effect in 2017.

All the money is being paid to the local law firm Brooks, Pierce, McLendon, Humphrey & Leonard, which has handled lobbying and litigation on the matter since February.

The bills are public documents and open for inspection. However, Brooks Pierce attorney Jim Phillips requested that details about work the attorneys did be redacted from the public record, citing the need to protect the city’s legal position.

The bills revealed:

The bulk of the money — about $136,872 — covered work on the lawsuit.

The highest monthly bill for such expenses came in July, when the city actually filed suit. The total: $97,887.

The city spent just more than $20,000 for lobbying work, less than the $25,000 cap it placed on such efforts. It’s unlikely the city will need to spend much more for lobbying, because the issue has moved from the General Assembly to a federal courtroom.

The next significant event: the initial pretrial conference, scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Dec. 22 in U.S. District Court in Durham. And because the city hasn’t placed a cap on litigation bills, spending is likely to increase as the suit winds its way through court.

On July 2, the state Senate and House passed a law that drew eight new voting districts for the city council. It eliminated the three at-large members — those elected by all city voters.

Instead, the new council would have eight members elected from newly drawn districts.

It also would have a mayor elected by all city voters who would be unable to vote on proceedings except in the case of a tie.

The city and six local residents immediately filed a suit in U.S. Middle District Court in Greensboro, saying the plan “substantially impairs the city of Greensboro and its citizens’ rights to self-governance.”

Days later, the city convinced U.S. District Court Judge Catherine Eagles to stop the law from going into effect for the 2015 election cycle.

The suit continues, however, because the city wants to stop the redistricting plan from taking effect for the 2017 election cycle.

Until a couple of weeks ago, the city’s suit — technically against the Guilford County Board of Elections — didn’t have anyone actively defending it. But in late October, Eagles named as defendants a group that includes former county commissioner Melvin “Skip” Alston and former City Councilman Earl Jones.

Alston, Jones and others in the group argue that the General Assembly’s redistricting effort allows for better representation of the black community on the board.

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