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Redistricting Commission case must go to Court of Appeals

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery can’t skip the Arizona Court of Appeals in his appeal of an open meeting law case he lost involving the state redistricting commission.

The Arizona Supreme Court denied his request Wednesday as part of its monthly meeting to decide which cases to hear.

“I would have liked for them to have taken it, but that doesn’t preclude us from being able to continue to litigate the matter,” Montgomery said.

Montgomery is appealing a November ruling by Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Dean Fink, who found that the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission isn’t bound by open meeting laws.

Attorney General Tom Horne last year initiated an investigation into whether IRC Chairwoman Colleen Mathis violated open meeting laws by contacting fellow commissioners in private to solicit their votes for a mapping consultant with strong ties to Democratic candidates and causes.

Horne tried to force Mathis, an independent, and Democrats José Herrera and Linda McNulty to cooperate before he was disqualified for a conflict of interest.

Montomery’s office then took over the case.

Deputy Maricopa County Attorney Colleen Connor argued in a May 7 petition that the case should bypass the Court of Appeals and go straight to the Supreme Court because it has statewide importance and the urgency of 2012 elections, which will be impacted by any decisions.

Attorneys representing the commission and the three individual commissioners asked the court to deny the petition because it didn’t present “extraordinary circumstances justifying the transfer.”

“The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (“commission”) completed its redistricting work in January, and has only met once in the past four months,” the IRC attorneys wrote in response. “Its future meeting schedule will also be limited. To the extent meetings are scheduled in the future, they will be limited to matters involving lawsuits against the commission and administrative matters, and the commission will continue following the Open Meeting Law as it has done since its inception.”

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