Dissatisfied with the opinion they received from the office Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, a fellow Republican, state GOP chairman Norm Semanko and House Speaker Lawerence Denney engaged in some lawyer shopping.
And they say they got a favorable opinion from Boise attorney Christ Troupis, who told them they have the authority to fire their appointed members of the state redistricting commission.
The Idaho GOP issued a news release Monday, quoting Troupis’ opinion. “The Idaho Attorney General’s conclusions are contrary to Idaho law settled over 45 years ago, and completely unsupported not only in Idaho, but every other jurisdiction that has addressed this issue.”
Troupis has represented a range of GOP and conservative interests in recent years, including the Republicans who successfully went to court to close their party’s primary elections, and the Keep the Commandments Coalition, which fought unsuccessfully to block Boise’s attempts to move a Ten Commandments monument from a city park.
Idaho Democrats, meanwhile, criticized the Republican efforts to fire the two commissioners. Democrats are pushing for an overhaul of state ethics laws.
“Make no mistake, this is a Republican against Republican fight and a clear example of the unacceptable culture in the GOP-controlled Statehouse,” state party chairman Larry Grant said. “That culture is one of ongoing bullying and arrogance as GOP leaders seek to purge moderate, reasonable lawmakers from their ranks.”
Grant didn’t exactly call it a “culture of corruption” — a phrase that prompted Denney to say he may withhold support of ethics legislation. Just a culture of bullying and arrogance. Not that much of a semantic difference.
So, come Thursday, eight people are likely to show up to sit on the six-member redistricting panel — including the new Semanko and Denney draft picks, and their previous draft picks, former legislators Randy Hansen and Dolores Crow. Should make for an interesting game of musical chairs.
Here’s the GOP news release:
Speaker of the House Lawerence Denney and Idaho GOP Chairman Norm Semanko delivered a legal opinion to the Secretary of State today, revealing that the Idaho Attorney General's opinion regarding the replacement of Redistricting Commissioners is contrary to the controlling legal authority and clearly in error. The legal opinion, prepared by attorney Christ Troupis, concludes that “the Idaho Attorney General’s conclusions are contrary to Idaho law settled over 45 years ago, and completely unsupported not only in Idaho, but every other jurisdiction that has addressed this issue.” Troupis’ legal opinion clearly states that Denney and Semanko have the authority to remove their Redistricting Commissioners and appoint replacements.
The legal analysis relies on two Idaho Supreme Court opinions, which ruled that the power of removal is incident to the power of appointment, absent an express Constitutional or statutory provision to the contrary. No provision limiting the power of removal exists in the redistricting laws. [Note: The two Supreme Court cases are Gowey v. Siggelkow, 85 Idaho 574 (1963) and Hansen v. White, 114 Idaho 907 (1988). The prevailing attorney in the Gowey case was Allen Derr of Boise.]
An opinion authored by the Attorney General's office for the Secretary of State last Friday failed to identify or recognize the controlling Supreme Court authority and instead came to the opposite conclusion, without the benefit of any binding legal precedent. The legal opinion provided to Denney and Semanko concludes that the AG's opinion is in error.
Semanko, himself a practicing attorney for the past 18 years, with numerous appearances before the Idaho Supreme Court, and former General Counsel for the Republican National Committee, said that the AG's opinion cannot be credibly or validly relied upon by the Secretary of State or anyone else, in light of the controlling Idaho Supreme Court precedent to the contrary.
Denney and Semanko plan to name their two new Redistricting Commissioners to fill the vacant positions tomorrow, in advance of the Commission reconvening on Thursday.
And here’s the Democrats’ news release:
Republican leaders have taken another shot at the redistricting process by “firing” two redistricting commissioners who have shown that they were effective and non-partisan. Make no mistake, this is a Republican against Republican fight and a clear example of the unacceptable culture in the GOP-controlled Statehouse. That culture is one of ongoing bullying and arrogance as GOP leaders seek to purge moderate, reasonable lawmakers from their ranks.
Larry Grant, Chairman of the Idaho State Democratic Party said, “This year’s redistricting fight is not between Democrats and Republicans. It’s a fight with GOP Party bosses on one side and reasonable Republicans on the other. The first redistricting commission stalemated and was unable to draw new legislative and congressional districts for the State because the GOP commissioners were instructed not to agree to anything.”
The Attorney General’s office has issued a legal opinion that redistricting commissioners can’t be fired, but that hasn’t stopped GOP leaders from ignoring the advice of Idaho’s top elected lawyer. Both Speaker of the Idaho House Lawerence Denney and Idaho Republican Party Chairman Norm Semanko have told their appointees to hit the road and don’t come back — and both party bosses have shown little interest in the state’s constitution.
“There was a rumor going around even before the first redistricting commission was called that the GOP wanted to sabotage the process,” Grant said. “It’s pretty obvious that GOP leadership wants the commission to fail so they can put redistricting back in the legislature where they can use it to continue to purge their party of moderate Republicans.”