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Texas Asks High Court to Toss Attorney Fees Award

(CN) - Texas shouldn't have to pay more than $1 million in attorney's fees to opponents of its redistricting efforts, the state argued this week to the Supreme Court.

The Texas Legislature brought on the redistricting battle when it redrew maps in 2011, after the 2010 U.S. Census showed the population had grown by more than 4 million since 2000. The increase gave Texas four new seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Texas Democratic Party and the League of United Latin American Citizens sued the Lone Star State, alleging its Republican-led Legislature had gerrymandered the map to dilute minorities' votes.

Texas was, at the time, one of nine states that had to receive preclearance of their redistricting plans from either the U.S. Department of Justice or the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, under the Voting Rights Act.

The state filed suit in Washington, D.C., seeking preclearance of its voting map plans from a panel of federal judges and a declaration that they "fully comply" with the Voting Rights Act.

The U.S. Supreme Court threw a wrench in the proceedings when it struck down the preclearance requirement of the Voting Rights Act in its Shelby County v. Holder ruling in 2013.

The high court vacated the D.C. court's preclearance denial in light of the controversial ruling. On remand, a three-judge panel in Washington granted Texas' motion to dismiss.

The state essentially considered the case closed, so it bristled when some of the intervenors sought attorney's fees and costs as the "prevailing party."

U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer blasted Texas' lackadaisical response to the intervenors' motion for attorney's fees in a June 2014 ruling.

"Texas has had every chance to oppose the fees and costs that fee applicants seek since the applications," Collyer wrote. "It instead opted to file a three-page advisory that ignored every argument of fee applicants except the applicability of Shelby County."

She awarded more than $1 million to three groups of intervenors: $466,680 to state legislators from districts in the Fort Worth area; $597,715 to a group of black and Hispanic voters; and $32,374 to the Texas State Conference of NAACP Branches.

Texas petitioned the Supreme Court on Monday to schedule a hearing to review the award and toss it out as unconstitutional.

"Nearly a full year after Shelby County held that Texas could not be subjected to any of the costs of preclearance, the district court nonetheless held that Texas could be forced to pay over $1 million to the litigants who subjected it to the unconstitutional costs of preclearance," Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller wrote in a 16-page writ of certiorari. (Emphasis in original).

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