COLUMBUS– Ohio Redistricting Commission Co-Chair Sen. Vernon Sykes (D-Akron) and House Minority Leader Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington) today filed with the Court opposition to the Attorney General’s attempt to relegate them to “amici” status in the lawsuits challenging the state maps. Sen. Sykes and Leader Russo both voted against the newest maps on Jan. 22.
“We all know that access to the courts is a fundamental American right. That’s why we are taking a stand against the Attorney General’s attempts to silence us in the challenges to these unconstitutional district maps. It’s very simple. We are respondents in these three cases. The Commission is a respondent, and we seven members of the Commission are also separate individual respondents. The Court held that we are proper parties as individuals. The Court ordered all respondents to file their briefs, if any, by last Friday. The Attorney General hampered our ability to follow the Court’s order by refusing us our previously-assigned outside counsel, by not offering us in-house counsel from his office, and by indicating he would even oppose our use of pro bono counsel. We had important information to bring to the court, so we had no choice but to represent ourselves pro se to make sure it saw the light of day,” said Leader Russo.
“The maps passed by the majority Commission members are unconstitutional. They continue to gerrymander Ohio’s communities and give Republicans an unearned advantage in the General Assembly,” Sen. Sykes said. “As members of the Redistricting Commission, we experienced firsthand that the majority did not truly attempt to create districts that followed the constitution and the Court’s proportionality requirement – they simply said it couldn’t be done. Ohioans and the Court deserve to know what happened during the map-drawing process.”
The two Democratic Commissioners asked the Court to deny the Attorney General’s motion. The Attorney General denied representation to the two Democrats at this stage of the litigation, despite previously having assigned them outside counsel representation to submit separate arguments in the lawsuits. Democrats filed today pro se.