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Arkansas Legislature to hire outside law firm in redistricting lawsuit

By: - August 18, 2022 12:46 pm

Arkansas General Assembly staff plan to hire a Little Rock law firm to help with subpoenas in the lawsuit over congressional redistricting.

A legislative subcommittee on Thursday authorized the Bureau of Legislative Research to negotiate a contract with the Mitchell Williams Law Firm for representation in the Pulaski County Circuit Court case challenging Arkansas new congressional district map.

Jill Thayer, the bureau’s legal counsel, said legislative staff received a large subpoena for legislative records “related to congressional redistricting” on Wednesday.

 

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“It’s important to the bureau, as we always do, to protect the legislative privilege that may adhere to those documents,” she said.

The bureau is the Legislature’s staff. It helps lawmakers draft bills, review executive rules, conduct research and provides computer services, like email.

Thayer said staff from Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge’s office told the bureau the attorney general’s office couldn’t handle such a voluminous subpoena.

Mitchell Williams already handles legislative privilege matters for the Legislature and staff in another lawsuit over the state’s ban on gender-transition procedures for minors, Thayer said.

The contract will be negotiated and entered at a later date.

In the redistricting challenge, six residents claimed the new maps approved by the General Assembly last year diluted the influence of Black voters by moving more than 20,000 voters out of the 2nd Congressional District into the 1st and 4th congressional districts.

The current 2nd Congressional District includes much of central Arkansas and all of Pulaski County. The 1st district includes northeast Arkansas and much of the Arkansas Delta; the 4th district is comprised mostly of south and west Arkansas.

The new districts are in effect for November’s mid-term election.

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Hunter Field
Hunter Field

Hunter Field is a veteran Arkansas journalist whose reporting on the state has carried him from military air strips in northwest Arkansas to soybean fields in the Arkansas delta. He spent the better part of the last decade investigating and reporting on Arkansas government and politics. For three years, he covered education policy, medical marijuana and the Arkansas General Assembly as part of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazetteā€™s Capitol Bureau. Most recently, he was the Democrat-Gazette's projects editor, leading the newspaper's investigative team. Hunter got his start in journalism covering sports for The Commercial Appeal in Memphis. A Memphis native, he enjoys smoking barbecue, kayaking and fishing in his free time.

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