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Ohio Supreme Court wants Redistricting Commission to explain why it shouldn't be held in contempt

Redistricting commission 2-17-22.jpg
Karen Kasler
/
Statehouse News Bureau
House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima, far left) walks toward his seat on the Ohio Redistricting Commission, as the meeting gets started on Thursday, February 17. 2022. Commission members already seated are Secretary of State Frank LaRose, House Minority Leader Allison Russo (D-Columbus), co-chair Sen. Vernon Sykes (D-Akron) and Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima). Seated out of the frame are commission members Auditor Keith Faber and Gov. Mike DeWine.

The Court wants the commission to show why there shouldn't be a penalty for not passing new House and Senate district maps by the deadline last week.

The Ohio Supreme Court has given the members of the Ohio Redistricting Commission till Wednesday at noon to show why they shouldn’t be held in contempt for ignoring a deadline set by the Court.

The commission failed to pass new House and Senate maps last Thursday.

The commission’s two Democrats had proposed new House and Senate maps, but the five Republican commissioners rejected them, saying they aren't constitutional. Majority Republicans on the commission didn’t present new House and Senate district maps and adjourned the meeting a few hours before the Court’s midnight deadline.

One of those Republicans, Gov. Mike DeWine, said he was concerned the court’s order hadn’t been followed.

“We have an obligation to file the Constitution, file the court order and to pass a map. That was the obligation. I think we could have passed a map," DeWine said after the meeting.

Co-chair Sen. Vernon Sykes (D-Akron) said in an interview for "The State of Ohio" that he is concerned about being held in contempt but hopes that introducing maps the Republicans voted down will help their cause.

“We have documented our attempts to do that, including a vote on the committee, so I think we’re insulated from it, but again, not a lawyer, not a legal scholar," Sykes said. "We have to leave that to the courts to make that decision.”

Attorney General Dave Yost doesn’t represent any commissioner, but says since contempt has individual consequences, Democratic commissioners have been assigned outside counsel, which they say will file their response.

It's unclear what might happen if the Commission or any members are held in contempt.

But Republican former justice Paul Pfeifer said Ohio Department of Natural
Resources Director Jim Zehringer was held in contempt of court in December 2012, when ODNR failed to pay property owners along Grand Lake St. Marys for flood damage.

“I don't think that sent shivers down the spine of the director of natural resources because he was taking orders from Gov. Kasich at the time and he's not going to violate his bosses orders. It didn't really matter that the court found him in contempt," said Pfeifer.

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