Rosemary Collyer.
Rosemary Collyer. (Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi / NLJ)

A federal judge in Washington reached a “remarkable result” when she ordered Texas to pay $1 million in legal fees to groups that challenged the state’s electoral redistricting plans—a result that Texas Solicitor General Jonathan Mitchell called “unprecedented” and wrong.

Texas, chided by a district judge for not putting much effort into responding to the fee petition, is appealing the judge’s order.

Judge Rosemary Collyer ordered Texas to pay the fees on June 18. The judge called the state’s response to the petition “a case study in how not to respond to a motion for attorney fees and costs.” Texas had filed a three-page advisory arguing it didn’t owe fees because the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the law that forced the state to come to court in the first place to get approval for its redistricting plans.

Mitchell filed papers on June 23 asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to put Collyer’s fee award on hold while the state appeals. He defended the response to the fee petition, arguing the state “reasonably sought to minimize any additional unconstitutional burdens that this litigation might pose on the state’s resources.”

A three-judge panel in 2012 found that Texas failed to meet the standards under the federal Voting Rights Act for adopting nondiscriminatory redistricting plans. Texas appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. While that case was pending, the Supreme Court in June 2013 struck down a section of the Voting Rights Act that required certain states—Texas among them—to get approval from the U.S. Department of Justice or the court before making changes to election processes, including redistricting.

Collyer awarded fees to groups that intervened in the case to challenge the redistricting plans. Those groups had argued they were owed fees because they won before the three-judge panel.

Contact Zoe Tillman at ztillman@alm.com. On Twitter: @zoetillman.