A special master appointed by the Maryland Court of Appeals to examine the legal challenges to legislative redistricting enacted earlier this year has found that all the challenges are without merit and should be denied. If the court accepts the recommendation in the report by retired appeals Judge Alan Wilner following a Nov. 7 hearing, it will uphold the plan Gov. Martin O’Malley submitted to the legislature in January.
Several plaintiffs filed suit against the legislative plan, including Baltimore County Democratic Sens. Delores Kelley and Jim Brochin, who strongly objected to the changes in their districts.
In a 74-page heavily footnoted report that weighs state and federal law and court rulings in great detail, Wilner in general accepted all the arguments made by state attorneys general and their consultant in defense of the O’Malley plan, and rejected all the plaintiffs’ arguments and evidence against it.
Wilner found that there was no regional discrimination, no partisan discrimination and no racial discrimination, even though many urban and Democratic districts were under-populated and rural and Republican districts were overpopulated.
But they were all within the 10% range allowed by the U.S. Supreme Court, Wilner found. He also found there was no partisan gerrymandering, even though evidence was presented that Republican legislators would be harmed. He also said that the plan conformed to federal Voting Rights Act for minority representation, despite one plaintiff’s assertion that it did not.
Wilner retired in 2007 from the Court of Appeals, Maryland’s highest court, but continues to hear some cases for the court when one of the seven judges is unable. He is one of the best-known and most influential appeals court judges during his 30 years on the bench.
But he also has more high level political experience than most judges. In 1977, Wilner was appointed to the Court of Special Appeals by Gov. Marvin Mandel, for whom he had served as chief legislative officer. Gov. William Donald Schaefer appointed him chief judge on the intermediate court. He was then appointed by Gov. Parris Glendening to the Court of Appeals.