A judge who counseled the Florida House on redistricting a decade ago won’t recuse himself from a map challenge now.
U.S District Judge Allen Winsor wrote that there’s no reason his work on behalf of the Florida Legislature before would impact rulings in a federal lawsuit regarding the ongoing redistricting process.
“This is a different case, featuring different issues, addressing a different map, in a different redistricting cycle — nearly a decade after I stopped working on redistricting matters,” Winsor wrote in an order issued Wednesday night.
Common Cause of Florida, Fair Districts Now and other plaintiffs who brought the case said Winsor should not be part of a three-judge panel to rule on the matter. The reasoning was Winsor, before his time on the bench, represented the Florida House of Representatives the last time Florida’s redistricting products landed in court.
“Judge Winsor’s previous efforts in this state’s redistricting processes raise legitimate questions about his role in this case, and — irrespective of Judge Winsor’s ability to remain evenhanded — reasonable citizens might question the appearance of impartiality in this case,” reads a motion filed last month.
Winsor was appointed to the bench by Republican President Donald Trump in 2018. During his confirmation hearings in the Senate, he described his involvement in the House starting in 2009.
“Beginning in 2009, my firm and I were retained to represent the Florida House of Representatives in the decennial redistricting process,” Winsor said during confirmation. “Our representation of the House was broader than litigation. Leading up to the enactment of the maps, we worked with and advised House leaders and staff and coordinated with experts.”
But Winsor advised a different group of lawmakers under a different set of laws about a different final product, he said.
He also noted his work was with GrayRobinson, which is advising the Legislature this year as well, but that he hasn’t been involved with the law firm for years.
“Plaintiffs do not argue that my former law firm’s involvement in this case warrants recusal. Nonetheless, their repeated mentions of the firm suggest they attach some significance to it,” he wrote. “I left the law firm more than nine years ago; I’ve been gone longer than I was there. My former association with that firm provides no basis to recuse.”
Regardless, he said having an expertise in a field is not reason alone for a recusal.
“Plaintiffs point to nothing ‘rare’ or ‘extraordinary’ about my redistricting litigation. I was a lawyer representing a client,” Winsor wrote. “Throughout my career as a practicing attorney, that is what I did. I handled many cases for many clients in many courts. I addressed many legal issues. And some had to do with redistricting. Those are the facts.”