“No later than April 29, Plaintiffs and Intervenor Plaintiffs must show cause why the court should not dismiss the case as moot,” wrote U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor.
The order to show cause comes days after attorneys for Secretary of State Laurel Lee called for the case to be dismissed.
Common Cause Florida, Fair Districts Now and five Florida citizens in March filed a complaint in U.S. District Court. In the original complaint, attorneys argued the Legislature and DeSantis would likely not reach an agreement over congressional cartography. At that time, DeSantis had made clear he would veto maps crafted by legislative staff and passed in the House and Senate.
“As a result, there is a significant likelihood that Florida’s political branches will fail to reach consensus to enact a lawful congressional district plan in time to be used in the upcoming 2022 elections,” the original lawsuit read.
But since that time, DeSantis has vetoed the maps. He then called the Legislature back into Session last week, and lawmakers passed a proposal drawn by DeSantis Deputy Chief of Staff Alex Kelly.
The Governor signed legislation drawing up 28 new districts on Friday. That means there is now a map that will produce the correct number of Representatives and all districts have been balanced in population to a single person.
“Now that Florida’s outmoded congressional districts have been superseded by properly apportioned congressional districts, there is no longer any controversy, and this Court cannot provide the Plaintiffs and Plaintiff-Intervenors the relief they seek,” read a brief from Lee’s attorneys.
That relief was a new, court-drawn map.
That said, the federal case also criticized DeSantis for involving himself in the mapmaking process at all.
“The Governor has repeatedly and inappropriately inserted himself into the congressional redistricting process, and with each intervention, the Legislature’s proposed maps have deviated further and further from the required constitutional standards,” the original complaint asserts.
It’s possible plaintiffs this week will argue the map produced by DeSantis’ staff still should be replaced for the 2022 midterms, though many legal experts believe it could take months or years to make an argument that those maps violate state or federal law.
The Florida Supreme Court in 2015 threw out maps approved by the Legislature for violating the state constitution’s Fair Districts amendment. But that took place three years and two election cycles after the lawmaker-approved maps were implemented.
A lawsuit has already been filed in state courts, funded by former Attorney General Eric Holder’s National Redistricting Foundation, that alleges DeSantis’ map runs afoul of the same constitutional provisions.