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A former DeKalb commissioner will get her day in court to prove that the county’s legislative delegation in 2002 drew district maps designed to boot a white woman from the commission and create a black majority. Former commissioner Jacqueline Scott alleges in a federal suit that black DeKalb County, Ga., officials drew her out of her district in 2002 so that they could gain a black majority. U.S. District Chief Judge Orinda D. Evans, who denied DeKalb’s motion for summary judgment last week, previewed some of the expected testimony, quoting extensively from depositions in her 37-page order. The suit goes forward as the Georgia Legislature scrambles to draw new House and Senate maps after a federal judge ruled the districts approved in 2002 by the General Assembly’s Democratic majority violated the principle of one man, one vote. In that case, Republican voters sued the state, alleging that gerrymandered districts shortchanged Republican areas in order to favor the election of Democrats. Although the two suits aren’t related, Attorney General Thurbert E. Baker is charged with defending the state and the 2002 maps in both cases. The suit over House and Senate maps names Secretary of State Cathy Cox as the defendant. The DeKalb suit names House Speaker Terry L. Coleman; Lt. Gov. Mark F. Taylor, who was Senate majority leader in 2002; the DeKalb board of elections; and the heads of the county’s legislative delegations. Baker couldn’t be reached for comment, but in its motion for summary judgment, the state denied that the General Assembly acted with discriminatory intent in approving the commission districts. In her order, Evans noted that state and county attorneys representing the legislators have conceded “that some legislators considered [Scott's] race” in conjunction with the redistricting bill. However, the defense argues that such a consideration does not suggest a discriminatory intent on the part of the whole General Assembly, which ultimately approved the county’s redistricting plan. But in her order, Evans said, “The law requires [Scott] to show that race was a substantial or motivating factor behind the legislation, not that every member of the General Assembly acted with a discriminatory motive.” Scott said she is pleased with the ruling. “The whole issue is extremely important, and that is that discrimination is wrong, no matter who is doing it for what reason,” she said. DRAWN OUT OF HER DISTRICT Evans’ order provided an outline of Scott’s case, relying on deposition testimony. Specifically, Evans quoted extensively from the deposition of Rep. Barbara J. Mobley, an African-American, a Decatur, Ga., Democrat and a lawyer. Mobley testified in a deposition that she and other members of the county’s legislative delegation discussed and subsequently acted on a request by DeKalb CEO Vernon A. Jones to draw Scott out of her district to make way for a black commissioner. Mobley testified that Rep. Karla Lea Drenner, D-Avondale Estates, said she had been warned by Jones that if she did not support the CEO’s redistricting plan, “her sexual preference would be discussed with the churches in her district.” Scott, a white Democratic incumbent who was facing re-election in 2002, lived in a majority black district but repeatedly had been elected to represent it. When the then-Democrat controlled Senate approved DeKalb’s redistricting bill, Scott became the only incumbent Democratic county officeholder in the state to be drawn out of her district. Thus, she could not run for re-election, and her new district didn’t have a 2002 election. Larry Johnson, who is black, was elected to represent Scott’s old district. Johnson’s election caused a historical shift in DeKalb’s commission — from four white women and three black men to four black men and three white women. Before the 2002 primary, Scott sued, claiming she had been specifically targeted because she was white. She also sought an injunction to halt the scheduled November 2002 election of the county’s commissioners. Evans refused to grant an injunction but left the door open for new elections should Scott win her case. A CHANCE TO PROVE DISCRIMINATION Former Georgia Attorney General Michael J. Bowers and Thomas J.R. Archer, both partners at the Atlanta offices of Balch & Bingham, have represented Scott in her suit. This week, former DeKalb district attorney J. Thomas Morgan III joined Scott’s legal team. Morgan, who joined B&B as a partner this month, said he did not realize until after he had been asked to join the firm that it was representing Scott. On Monday, Morgan called Evans’ ruling “right on point.” Archer said that Evans’ order “is what we wanted. We wanted a trial. Now we get a chance to prove to the court … the only reason that [Scott] was drawn out … is because she’s white.” Evans’ Feb. 18 order lays out a contentious redistricting process in which some legislators, both black and white, testified that Scott’s precinct was removed from her old district because Jones wanted to work with a majority black commission. The redistricting bill, SB 400, was sponsored by state Sens. Nadine Thomas, Connie Stokes and Gloria S. Butler, all of whom are black Democrats from southern DeKalb. Former state Sen. Mike Polak, D-Atlanta, said in a deposition that Thomas threatened to delay other senators’ local legislation if they did not go along with the plan to get Scott off the commission. According to Evans’ order, however, Thomas said in depositions that she didn’t tell the legislative office to remove Scott’s precinct from her district and “she does not believe Scott was deliberately drawn out.” Thomas couldn’t be reached for comment.

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