ANNAPOLIS — Maryland’s top legislators could testify as soon as May in the federal court case challenging Maryland’s congressional district boundaries.
A three-judge panel this week affirmed an earlier opinion by one of the panel’s judges that House Speaker Michael Busch and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., along with other Democratic lawmakers and state officials, could be called for depositions in the case.
The Frederick County plaintiffs argue that the state is unconstitutionally gerrymandered to stifle Republican voters in western Maryland’s 6th District.
In seeking evidence in the case, the plaintiffs served notices of deposition and subpoenas on the four Democratic members of the Governor’s Redistricting Advisory Committee, which worked on the state’s decennial mapping process. Those members included Miller and Busch.
Notices were also sent to Sens. Richard S. Madaleno Jr., D-Montgomery, and C. Anthony Muse, D-Prince George’s County, and Delegate Curt S. Anderson, D-Baltimore City.
Represented by the Office of the Attorney General, the members of the advisory committee and the lawmakers argued that they could not be compelled to testify in depositions or produce documents because of legislative privilege.
Miller, Busch and Madaleno produced fewer than 150 pages of evidence in the case, according to court records, and asserted state legislative privilege in withholding 36 responsive documents.
While the court ruled that the plaintiffs can move forward with depositions, the judges directed both sides to accommodate the schedules of Miller and Busch and postpone their depositions until after the end of the General Assembly session, but no later than May 1.
The case moves forward as redistricting reform bills put forward by Republicans and Democrats alike remain pending in the 2017 General Assembly session. As of Thursday afternoon, committees hadn’t taken action on any of the measures, including one put forward by Gov. Larry Hogan (R).
“There can be no possible excuse for keeping the nonpartisan redistricting reform bill hidden in a drawer once again. ... It’s time for legislators to join with us and set an example for the entire nation,” Hogan said at an afternoon press conference.
In the court case, former Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) has also sought to avoid a deposition, asserting executive privilege.
A status report on evidence gathering in the case is due to the court later this month.