Citizens for Fair Representation, a group affiliated with the State of Jefferson movement, will resubmit its 2017 lawsuit against California Secretary of State Alex Padilla that alleges that the system of apportioning legislative districts equally by population has diluted the votes of rural residents and denied them fair representation at the State Capitol.
“This case will be resubmitted to the whole Ninth District Court with a little bit of rebuke behind it,” said Lew Manor, who represents the Colusa County State of Jefferson Committee.
The group claims that U.S. District Judge Kimberly Mueller’s order on Nov. 28, 2018 dismissing the group’s civil complaint was illegal and unconstitutional.
“When we submitted it, she requested a three-judge court, which was the law and something she was supposed to do – according to the Supreme Court in 2015 and according to regulation,” Manor said. “A couple of weeks later, she rescinded her decision, which was unprecedented; its never been done before. We have a feeling there was politics involved.”
Manor, who gave presentations to the Colusa County Board of Supervisors and city councils of Williams and Colusa in April, said Mueller admitted to talking to outside council, which the group believe was against the law.
“She admitted to the legitimacy of the case, as did the state’s attorney, but dismissed it anyway and said it was out of her jurisdiction,” Manor said.
Mueller ruled that the alleged grievance brought by Citizens for Fair Representation in the lawsuit was “too generalized to establish standing to sue in federal court” and would require the court to take action on political questions that could only be resolved through the California Legislature.
Manor said the lawsuit would be resubmitted with changes with the Ninth Circuit early this month. At the lawsuit’s center is the claim that the 1879 legislative cap of 80 seats in the Assembly and 40 in the State Senate, when the state’s population was about 400,000, harms citizens in rural areas now that California’s population has reached nearly 40 million.
Jefferson supporters hope the lawsuit will eventually push the state to remedy their grievances, either by increasing the number of representatives in the Assembly and apportioning one state senator for each of the 58 counties, or by allowing the 23 northern counties to split from California and form its own state.
Manor said the case has attracted the attention of rural communities in other states who suffer similar disenfranchisement.
“They are watching us to see what we will accomplish in all of this,” he said. “The State of Jefferson movement, in the meantime, has gotten involved in other issues in the state and the United States, in general.” Alex Kozinski, former chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth District, has joined the Citizens’ legal team, which also includes Stewart Jay, professor at the University of Washington State School of Law.■