Lawyers Set To Make Millions Off Reapportionment


Three Democrats are already running for the Florida House seat now held by state Rep. Franklin Sands of Weston.

Only one problem:  Candidates Louis Reinstein, Richard Stark and Dan Stermer have no idea what House District 98 will look like in 2012.

They may not know for certain until days before the filing begins June 18, 2012, according to a timetable released by the state Senate.

Lawsuits and mandated legal reviews are the reason for the delay.  All this legal rigmarole is economic stimulus for the state’s big and plugged-in law firms.

For instance,  the Gray-Robinson firm’s Jason Unger, a former Fort Lauderdale Republican activist and long-time Bush family supporter, represents the Florida House on reapportionment.  His wife, former Browardite Karen Unger, was Jeb Bush’s campaign manager and is a well-known GOP operative.

Republican heavyweights Tripp Scott of Fort Lauderdale handle reapportionment for the state Senate.

How much money is at stake for lawyers?   Millions!

That’s what it will take to make sure the new districts are legal. Most of the lawyers’  fees will be paid by the public in one way or another.

Ka-ching, ka-ching!

Until all that court maneuvering is over, nothing is certain.  Candidates still have to campaign if they have any hope of winning, even though eventually they may not have a district to run in.

Stermer said he will not move if his Weston house is carved out of District 98 during reapportionment.   Or if the seat is redrawn to be more favorable to a Republican candidate.

A former Weston commissioner, Stermer has the same dilemma as Scott Brook who is campaigning for state Rep. Ari Porth’s northwest Broward seat.  Brook has no idea whether District 96 will be made less hospitable to Democrats.

Porth and Sands are termed out.


The start of the regular 60-day session next year is being moved up two months to January to accommodate the various legal barriers reapportionment must jump over before being approved.

The plan must be okayed by the Florida Supreme Court and the U. S. Justice Department.

Worst case scenario:  The plan gets final approval on the Friday before filing begins Monday June 18, 2012.

Add to this legal marathon a swarm of law suits that are sure to contest the new lines.  In 2002, the courts were still tweaking the district boundaries in August, days before the primary.

The new amendments to the Florida Constitution approved by voters last November complicate matters. They mandate the way reapportionment takes place.  The amendments are already in court.

One lawyer involved told me that the language of the amendments violate previous federal court rulings governing fair redistricting.

The federal courts also will look unfavorably upon any plan that appears to offer less opportunity for minorities to be elected.

Politically, it is getting harder to draw solid Republican or Democratic districts that will last for a decade.  That’s because of the growing clout of independent voters.

Black Republican U. S. Rep. Allen West won overwhelmingly last year in a district that was slightly Democratic and previously held by a Democrat. The district is largely white.

In the 1990s, the Republicans took over the Legislature despite the fact that Democrats held power when the districts were drawn.

The independent vote factor is just one more obstacle  for legislators drawing new districts next year.

But guys like Stermer can’t put off running until the district lines are chiseled in stone.

“I can’t wait until then, said Stermer, who has started to raise money necessary for the campaign.

No candidate can wait.


Below is the Florida Senate’s initial timetable for redistricting state House, Senate and congressional seats. Click to enlarge.

10 Responses to “Lawyers Set To Make Millions Off Reapportionment”

  1. Floridan says:

    And of course Scott is doing his own delay dance.
    FROM BUDDY: Scott Brook? Jim Scott?

  2. Inquiring Minds says:


  3. Floridan says:

    For those who don’t keep up:

    FROM BUDDY: I read this when it was printed. Since the post had two mentions of other people named Scott, I thought you were referring to one of them. Sorry.
    You are right. This could complicate the situation, at least in the short run, even more.

  4. oy says:

    not surprised

  5. Las Olas Law says:

    Forget Rick Scott. He will have little to do with it in the end.
    The key is whether the Legislature can draw districts which preserve the rights of minorities as required by federal law while adhering to the amendments. Otherwise, expect a federal judge to send it back.

  6. beenhere says:

    Is it right to draw lines so that only a minority candidate can win? Both ways are wrong. Let the lines be drawn logically.

  7. Kevin says:

    Consitutionally, Rick Scott has no say whatsoever in the state house and senate district lines. These are passed by joint resolution of the legislature. He DOES, however, have a veto over the Congressional plan.

    Also, Amendments 5 & 6 need to be submitted to the Justice Department and pre-cleared before they can go into effect…. and the Justice Department (in DC) can reject these amendments and bar them from being implemented. It is a mess right now.


  8. Kevin says:


    I’ve done some more research on this. In the past, any changes to election laws (which fall under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act) from Florida that had a statewide impact were submitted to the Justice Department by the Secretary of State (who until 2002 was a separately-elected statewide official sitting in The Cabinet).

    Now, apparently, since the Governor appoints the SoS, the job of Section 5 submissions falls to the Governor, who in this case is clearly overwhelmed and does not understand the law, nor apparently has he appointed anyone who does.

    The bottom line here is that, if Gov. Scott does not submit Amendments 5 and 6 to the Justice Department for preclearance, they will NEVER be allowed to become law, even though 60% + of voters approved them.

    I guess the only thing left to do, if he does not submit them, is to have some interested party ask that the Florida Supreme Court issue a writ of mandamus forcing him to do so… but I am not a lawyer, so I really don;t know how that works.

    Kevin Hill.

    FROM BUDDY: I spoke to lawyers handling the case for the Legislature. They expect Scott to send it to Washington and don’t anticipate this will be an issue.

    But Scott has surprised us and them in the short time he has been in Tallahassee.

    Thanks for the research.


  9. Kevin says:


    it might not be an issue for the Governor or the Legislature, but it might still get shot down by the feds.

  10. Barack Obama says:

    what’s wrong with lawyers making millions?