Former Harris County Precinct 3 Commissioner Steve Radack filed a redistricting lawsuit on New Years Eve last week. This lawsuit comes hot on the heels of a previous lawsuit by Commissioners Jack Cagle, Tom Ramsey and their supporters. That lawsuit is now in the Texas Supreme Court. Here’s an overview of where both cases stand. The fate of flood mitigation in Harris County could hang in the balance.
Radack Lawsuit Alleges Lack of Sufficient Public Notice
The Radack lawsuit alleges that County Judge Lina Hidalgo, Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis, and Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia passed a redistricting plan without providing sufficient public notice.
Radack claims that constitutes a violation of the Texas Open Meetings Act (TOMA). TOMA requires that members of the public must have 72 hours notice of provisions being considered, but the Ellis-3 redistricting plan was posted on the day of the meeting in which it was approved. The public had virtually no advance notice of the plan, and thus, no opportunity to comment on it. People first learned of the plan when Ellis rolled it out in the meeting during which he, Garcia and Hidalgo approved it.
The lawsuit further alleges that:
- Hidalgo, Ellis and Garcia planned the surprise in advance.
- Their plan makes it impossible for Jack Cagle to get re-elected.
- It will give Democrats a 4-1 supermajority.
- Failure to timely post notice of the plan invalidates the vote on it.
- In violating TOMA, Lina Hidalgo overstepped her authority and therefore does not enjoy governmental immunity.
Radack filed his lawsuit on December 31st. The county clerk posted it on her website on Monday, January 3rd. The case landed in the 190th Court where Judge Beau Miller presides.
Hidalgo, Ellis and Christian Menafee, the County Attorney, issued public denials on Tuesday’s evening news. However, they have not yet filed a formal response to Radack’s lawsuit with the court.
Hidalgo Files Response to Cagle/Ramsey Suit Pending in Supreme Court
Commissioners Jack Cagle, Tom Ramsey and their supporters filed the first lawsuit. It is currently before the Texas Supreme Court. Their complaint focused on denial of voting rights for more than a million people. Judge Dedra Davis of the 270th District Court dismissed that lawsuit without explanation. The plaintiffs then directly filed for a writ of mandamus from the Supreme Court. Plaintiffs did not have time to go through the normal appeal process.
In that case, Hidalgo filed a 185-page response on December 30th to the plaintiffs’ charges. Hidalgo contends that:
- The county did not violate voting rights because when you redistrict precincts with staggered terms, voting rights for some will always be delayed but not permanently denied.
- The court has no way to evaluate whether Harris County went “way beyond” what was necessary to redistrict
- Plaintiffs took too long to seek relief.
Plaintiffs in this case also filed a request for an expedited ruling. To affect the next election without delaying it, a ruling would reportedly have to come sometime in January.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 1/5/2022
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