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Activist Democratic lawyers suffer another setback in Florida

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

A Florida appellate court has openly blasted a lower court ruling which attempted to instate a redistricting map favored by Democratic lawyers as as 'patently unlawful,' which raises the likelihood that the map favored by Governor Ron DeSantis (R) and the Republican Florida legislature will in fact be used in the November elections.

Democrats, led by controversial attorney Marc Elias, sued the state in April, alleging that the redrawn map violated the Florida Fair Districts standards, alleging that the newly-drawn congressional districts diminished minority voting power and also did not follow county, city, or geographic boundaries. The largest source of controversy concerned Florida's Congressional District 5, which has historically been a majority-black district.

DeSantis took particular aim at this district, calling it an impermissible racial gerrymander, and threatening to veto any plan passed by the legislature that continued to preserve its historic status.

The plaintiffs were initially successful, as Leon County Circuit Judge Layne Smith — who was appointed to the bench by DeSantis — not only issued a temporary injunction preventing the newly-drawn map from taking effect, but also attempting to order the state to implement one of the maps proposed by the plaintiffs. However, the plaintiffs' crowing was short-lived, as the 1st District Court of Appeal promptly issued a stay on the injunction last week in a brief order that did not explain their reasoning.

In a ruling release Friday, the appeals court broadsided the temporary injunction issued by Judge Smith as "patently unlawful," taking particular aim at the trial court's decision to not only issue an injunction against the legislature's map, but to install a map favored by the plaintiffs.

"In the order, the circuit court even acknowledges that it is crafting a remedy for the appellees until there can be a trial. The grant of this provisional remedy, unmoored from an adjudication, was an unauthorized exercise of judicial discretion, making the temporary injunction unlawful on its face," the court said.

The plaintiffs have asked the Florida Supreme Court to lift the stay imposed by the appellate court, but the Supreme Court has not yet responded.

This is not the only recent loss suffered by activist Democratic lawyers in Florida. Earlier this month, the federal 11th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed an order issued by district judge Mark Walker, an Obama appointee, which found that a new Florida law restricting the use of drop boxes and ballot-harvesting to be unconstitutional. The ruling means that the law, signed last year by governor DeSantis, will go into effect.

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