A federal judge in New Orleans dismissed on Monday a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a reapportionment plan for the St. James Parish Council.
U.S. District Judge Martin L. C. Feldman ruled for the Parish Council after the plaintiffs failed to meet a court deadline for a second time in three months, the ruling says.
“Although acknowledging that the individual plaintiffs were not at fault for their counsel’s mistakes, the Court expressly admonished counsel that: ‘Future lapses by counsel … will not be tolerated,’” Feldman wrote in his 14-page ruling Monday, quoting from an earlier Aug. 23 order.
The council is slated for a primary election on Oct. 22. The U.S. Department of Justice pre-cleared the reapportionment plan on Aug. 29, apparently clearing the way for the election.
But the plaintiffs still had the federal lawsuit pending and, with it, the risk that the judge could order an election delay.
In June, Feldman granted the Parish Council’s motion to dismiss an earlier version of the suit filed in May because of another missed deadline.
On Aug. 23, he reconsidered that order and reinstated the lawsuit at the plaintiffs’ urging. The next day, a federal magistrate allowed the plaintiffs to file an amended complaint, responding to Parish Council-enacted changes to the reapportionment plan.
That latest suit, filed Aug. 26, prompted the Parish Council’s latest motion to dismiss on Sept. 5.
Besides the missed deadlines, though, Judge Feldman found Monday that the plaintiffs failed to provide enough facts to support their constitutional claims. In doing so, Feldman agreed with points raised in the Parish Council’s latest dismissal motion.
Reapportionment is constitutionally required after each decennial census to align council districts with population changes. The census was done in 2010.
The Justice Department must review and approve reapportionment plans in Southern states with a history of racial discrimination in voting.