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Supreme Court to consider redistricting ‘contempt’

The Supreme Court of Virginia has agreed to take up a lower court’s ruling that state legislators were in contempt of court for failing to disclose emails related to the 2011 remapping of the state’s Sen­ate districts.

The court on Wednesday granted a joint request from the parties to bypass the Court of Appeals of Virginia and bring the politically charged issue direct­ly to the justices.

A redistricting reform group is chal­lenging the legality of 11 Senate districts. The districts are not “compact” under a constitutional standard, the group claims.

The litigation in Richmond Circuit Court produced a battle over whether legislative privilege protects lawmakers’ correspondence from public view. Judge W. Reilly Marchant ruled the emails in question were not protected and found the legislators in contempt for refusing to turn them over.

The contempt finding – urged by the legislators themselves – allowed an im­mediate appeal of the privilege issue.

The Supreme Court’s order said the court determined the case “is of such imperative public importance as to jus­tify the deviation from normal appellate practice and to require a prompt decision in this Court….”

The court set a briefing schedule that extends through July 1.

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