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Election Law Litigation

Lance v. Dennis

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(page last updated October 31, 2007 at 1:25 PM)

Case Information

All Courts: United States District Court, District of Colorado (Case 1:03-cv-02453-ZLW-CBS)
Topic(s): Redistricting
State: Colorado
Date Filed: June 20, 2005
Date Ended: August 11, 2006

Summary

This case arises out of the allotment of an additional seat in the House of Representatives to the state of Colorado after the 2000 census. In connection with the allotment of this additional seat, the number of congressional districts in the state was increased requiring a new redistricting plan. When the Colorado General Assembly failed to pass a new redistricting plan, the Colorado courts intervened and drew a new congressional district map; this court drawn district map was then used in the 2002 election. After the election, the General Assembly passed a redistricting plan, creating competing electoral maps. Two cases (Salazar v. Dennis, 79 P.3d 1221 (Colo. 2003) and Keller v. Davidson, 299 F. Supp.2d 1171 (D. Colo. 2004)) sought to continue the use of the court approved map- one in federal court, the other in state court. The Colorado Supreme Court held in Salazar that redistricting was limited to once per decade, and as such the map drawn by the General Assembly violated Colorado Constitution Article V, §44.

After the decision by the Colorado Supreme Court, the proponents of the legislative plan brought this action. This group argued that Colorado Constitution Article V, §44 violated the Elections Clause by depriving the legislature of its responsibility to draw congressional districts and the Petitions Clause by preventing citizens from petitioning the government to redress grievances. As to the Elections Clause claim, the District Court held that Plaintiffs were precluded from bringing such an action as: (1) the outcome of the government's previous litigation over a matter of public concern bound all state citizens; and, (2) Plaintiffs were seeking appellate review of an issue in a lower federal court decided by a state court. As to the Petition Clause claim, the District Court held that Plaintiffs did not state a claim for which relief could be granted as the Petitions Clause merely allows citizens to petition the government; the Petitions Clause does not guarantee citizens a right to redress.

The United States Supreme Court remanded the case to the United States District Court for the District of Colorado and held that the parties in this action were not parties to the state-court proceedings, and thus are not bound by the state-court decision. The fact that they could be considered in privity with a party to the state-court judgment was not sufficient to bar the action of these Plaintiffs.

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