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A state judge in Fort Lauderdale has short-circuited the contentious lawsuit over the Florida Legislature’s congressional redistricting plan brought in Broward Circuit Court, dismissing the case on jurisdictional grounds while at the same time dismissing claims brought by Florida’s secretary of state that the attorney general was playing partisan politics instead of representing the state. The ruling issued late Monday leaves the fate of the redistricting plan in the hands of a three-judge panel in U.S. District Court. Closing arguments in the federal case are to be heard today in Tallahassee. “This woman is crazy,” Judge Robert Lance Andrews said Tuesday of Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris and her motion, which among other things claimed Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth had been “the butt of humor” before the three-judge panel overseeing the federal case because they couldn’t figure out what side of the case he was on. Harris, a Republican, became nationally known in 2000 for her role in the presidential recount battle. Butterworth is a Democrat. In his order dismissing Harris’ attempt to disqualify Butterworth, Andrews wrote: “It is irrefutable that the authority to speak or defend the state of Florida is vested only with the attorney general.” Until Monday, there had been two lawsuits regarding the newly drawn electoral map. The Broward lawsuit was filed by U.S. Reps. Corrine Brown of Jacksonville, Fla., Alcee L. Hastings of Miramar, Fla., and Carrie Meek of Miami, all black Democrats. In a seven-page order, Andrews held that under the Florida Constitution a state court has no authority to review the Legislature’s enactment of the congressional apportionment plan. The case had twice been removed to federal court but both times was sent back. The ruling by Andrews came as a surprise to all parties because neither the court, nor any of the parties, had raised the issue of jurisdiction. Hastings, who said the plaintiffs are considering an appeal to the state’s 4th District Court of Appeal or directly to the Florida Supreme Court, criticized a report, which was attached to the decision, by Andrews’ expert. “If the judge based his decision on the report, then he based it on a false premise,” said Hastings. The report by former presidential candidate John B. Anderson, who now teaches at Nova Southeastern University’s law school near Fort Lauderdale, asserted that the lawsuit in Broward Circuit Court should not proceed because the same parties were before a federal court. Hastings said he is not a plaintiff in the federal case. Joseph P. Klock Jr., managing partner of Steel Hector & Davis in Miami, who is representing Harris, said factual errors are of no matter: “The court had no jurisdiction to hear this case from Day 1, the rest is irrelevant.”

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