In 2010, Florida voters adopted by referendum the "Fair Districts Amendment" (Fla. Const. art. III, §§ 20, 21), which prohibited Florida's congressional and legislative redistricting plans from being drawn "with the intent to favor or disfavor a political party or incumbent." After the Florida Legislature enacted their congressional redistricting plan in 2012, several Florida voters, along with various civil and voting rights groups, filed a state lawsuit challenging the congressional plan as violating the Fair Districts Amendment on the grounds that several districts were drawn to impermissibly favor the Republican party. On July 10, 2014, the state trial court ruled that the 2012 congressional plan was "tainted" by unconstitutional intent to favor the Republican Party and incumbent lawmakers and ordered that two of the challenged districts be redrawn. The defendants subsequently appealed this decision to the Florida Supreme Court.

On July 9, 2015, the Florida Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's finding of unconstitutional partisan intent in the congressional plan, but reversed its final judgment on the grounds the trial court committed several errors in their review of the case. First, the trial court failed to properly distinguish between a challenge to the plan as a "whole," one resulting from an unconstitutional process, and a challenge to individual districts within the plan. In doing so, the trial court failed to give significance to the evidence at trial showing that unconstitutional intent was present in both the creation of certain districts and in the redistricting process generally. Second, the trial court applied an unduly deferential standard of review to the Legislature's enacted plan after finding the existence of unconstitutional intent, which should have shifted the burden to the Legislature to justify its decisions when creating the plan. Finally, the Florida Supreme Court, applying the correct standard of review, evaluated the Legislature's offered justifications for the plan and ordered that eight of the challenged districts be redrawn, remanding the case to the trial court for further proceedings in accordance with the court's instructions.

Following the Florida Supreme Court's ruling, the Florida Legislature passed a remedial congressional plan and submitted it to the trial court for approval. The trial court issued an order approving twenty of the proposed remedial districts, but found that the Legislature failed to meet its burden in defending eight South Florida districts and recommended that the district formations set forth in an alternative plan submitted by the plaintiffs be implemented due to their greater adherence to constitutional criteria. On December 2, 2015, the Florida Supreme Court approved in full the trial court's recommendations regarding the remedial congressional plan and ordered the plan be adopted for use beginning with the 2016 congressional elections.


Circuit Court of the Second Judicial Circuit In and For Leon County, Florida - No. 2012-CA-490 [together with Romo v. Detzner, 2012-CA-412]

Florida Supreme Court - No. SC14-1905