Briggs and Morgan lines up on GOP side of redistricting battle

Three attorneys for Briggs and Morgan have filed as “attorneys of record” for eight citizens in a redistricting case. The attorneys; former MN Supreme Court Justice Eric Magnuson, Elizabeth Brama and Michael Wilhelm, all filed the paperwork this morning to say that they would represent the eight Republican citizens who have filed lawsuits both in federal and state courts.

The Republican Party of Minnesota is working with an independent group, “Minnesotans for a Fair Redistricting,” on redistricting efforts.

Magnuson said he’s working on behalf of the eight clients listed in the legal filings and is willing to work on the issue in both state and federal court.

“I will work on both of them with the exception that I can’t appear before the Minnesota Supreme Court,” Magnuson said. “But we have other attorneys in our office that can do that.” Magnuson left his position on the Minnesota Supreme Court last June. The Minnesota Supreme Court is asking former justices to wait three years before they appear before the Minnesota Supreme Court.

One of the citizens being represented by Magnuson, Gregg Peppin, said a lot of the litigation work has been coordinated by the Minnesota Republican Party and “Minnesotans for a Fair Redistricting.” He said the filing indicates that Briggs and Morgan will be working with attorney Tony Trimble on redistricting efforts for Republicans in Minnesota.

“They told me they were going to get a litigator and this confirms that,” Peppin said about Magnuson’s filing.

Minnesota Republican Party Chair Tony Sutton confirmed that Briggs and Morgan has been hired by “Minnesotans for a Fair Redistricting” but said he or other members of the MNGOP have nothing to do with the hiring. He said former MNGOP Chair Chris Georgacus is heading “Minnesotans for a Fair Redistricting.”

The decision to hire Briggs and Morgan sets up another battle of legal heavyweights. Magnuson, a former Minnesota Supreme Court Justice appointed by former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, represented the Minnesota Republican Party and Republican Tom Emmer in the 2010 gubernatorial recount.

Democrats have hired Washington D.C. attorney Marc Elias and Minneapolis attorney David Lillehaug to head up the DFL Party’s redistricting efforts in court. Elias represented Gov. Mark Dayton in the 2010 gubernatorial recount and Sen. Al Franken in the 2008 U.S. Senate recount.

The Minnesota DFL Party has also been working with the outside group, Democratic National Redistricting Trust, on its legal efforts. That group is also being represented by Elias.

One of the reasons independent groups, and not state parties, are working on redistricting efforts is to avoid campaign contribution limits and disclosure laws. The McCain/Feingold law forbids parties from raising unlimited amounts of soft money to pay for political activity and redistricting efforts. Independent groups can raise soft money.

Republicans and Democrats in Minnesota have been lining up for a lengthy and costly court battle over how the state’s political boundaries should be drawn. The courts are being asked to prepare for the possibility that Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and GOP legislative leaders won’t reach agreement on a redistricting plan. Dayton vetoed the GOP-backed plan last month. The courts will take over the process if an agreement isn’t reached by February 21.

A federal judge held a hearing last week on a request by several Democrats to have federal court oversee the drawing of the state’s political maps. Republican attorneys have argued that redistricting matters must move through state court first.

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