Federal court dismisses remaining claims in redistricting suit - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

WV Federal court dismisses remaining claims in congressional redistricting suit

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A panel of three federal judges in Charleston on Jan. 25 said remaining aspects of a lawsuit challenging West Virginia's 2011 congressional redistricting plan may be heard, just not in federal court.

The Jefferson County Commission sued Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, House Speaker Richard Thompson and President of the Senate Jeffrey Kessler over the 2011 plan, alleging the state's three congressional districts violated the one-person one-vote rule, did not have numerical equality and were not compact enough because it split the Eastern Panhandle between the 1st and 2nd congressional districts. 

Last year, the three-judge panel ruled the redistricting plan was unconstitutional, but their ruling was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in September that the state's plan didn't violate the one-person one-vote rule. However, the justices remanded the other two claims back to U.S District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, saying the issues of compactness and equality should be taken up at the local level.

This week, U.S. District judges granted state officials' motion to dismiss these pending claims so that they could be refiled in the appropriate state court.

"The pendent claims in this litigation indeed raise novel and complex issues of West Virginia law that the courts of the state should be given first opportunity to resolve," the court document, written by Judge Robert King, states.