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Discovery Advances for Texas Redistricting Trial

(CN) - Texas will have to fork over most of the documents requested by the United States and intervening parties in the dispute over the state's redistricting maps, a federal judge ruled, addressing "a discovery impasse" two weeks before trial.

In an effort to have Texas redistricting maps for the 2012 election cycle declared compliant with the Voting Rights Act, the state sued the United States and Attorney General Eric Holder in Washington, D.C.

On Nov. 8, however, a three-judge panel refused to grant summary judgment for the maps affecting the state Senate, the state House of Representatives and the U.S. House of Representatives. Texas improperly relied on voting-age population data to determine the effect the maps will have on minority voters, according to the follow-up opinion filed Dec. 22. Declining to rule on whether Texas devised its plans to discriminate against the groups protected by the Voting Rights Act, the panel slated a trial for the case on Jan. 17.

On Jan. 2, however, U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer noted that "the parties have reached a discovery impasse: Texas claims that the attorney-client privilege, the attorney work-product doctrine, and state legislative and statutory privileges shield various materials from production or testimony here."

The opinion states that Texas cannot resist requests made by State Sen. Wendy Davis and a group of defendant-intervenors for copies of correspondence between multiple members of the Senate and the individual who drew the state Senate map, Doug Davis.

Texas had claimed attorney-client privilege and legislative privilege shielded these documents.

Since the state was silent regarding complaints made by the Texas Latino Redistricting Task Force, the judge also granted the motion to compel discovery filed by the task force as a separate defendant-intervenor.

Collyer's order allows the United States access to documents regarding communication between the three map-drawers, Doug Davis, Ryan Downton and Gerardo Interiano, and members of the state Legislature, as well as between the Texas Legislative Council and the state Legislature.

But the judge held back on what Texas identified as "racially polarized voting reports that were generated during the legislative session by the Office of the Attorney General at the request of counsel for every plan that may have been considered by the Legislature."

"The information that Texas has presented to the court cannot support any conclusion as to whether the racially polarized reports and/or summaries are protected by the attorney-client privilege or work-product doctrine," Collyer wrote. "The question is too important for a hasty conclusion. Thus, the court invites Texas to support its argument, if it chooses to do so, with more specificity - explaining the relationship of the OAG to the state Legislature generally and to individual legislators, the identities of authors and recipients, and the specific nature of the communications that might make them privileged."

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