Judge dismisses lawsuit against city redistricting

July 24, 1991|By Ginger Thompson

A lawsuit against Baltimore's controversial redistricting plan was dismissed yesterday by U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz, who said that the challenge was filed so late that it would unduly disrupt this year's city elections.

Judge Motz did not rule on the constitutionality of the plan, which created five majority black districts and left only Southeast Baltimore's 1st District with a white majority. He said that challengers of the plan -- Ross Z. Pierpont, a frequent Republican candidate for city and state office, and Aaron J. Wilkes, a resident of the 2nd District -- should have filed their suit soon after the redistricting plan was signed by Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke in March.

Dr. Pierpont's challenge was filed June 27, less than two months before the city primaries on Sept. 12.

"The judge told us we should have gotten going sooner," Dr. Pierpont said yesterday. "But I had a devil of a time finding a black Democrat [Mr. Wilkes] to stand up and speak their mind on this issue."

City Solicitor Neal M. Janey said, "The dismissal of the suit removes a substantial burden from the candidates seeking election to the City Council."

He said many of the candidates had invested a substantial amount of money in their campaigns. And he said the city Board of Elections had awarded contracts to begin printing ballots for the primaries.

Mr. Janey said that although Judge Motz did not rule on the legal merits of the city's redistricting plan, his office was prepared to defend it if necessary. Although Dr. Pierpont's suit had been dismissed, Mr. Janey said other challenges can be filed after the general elections on Nov. 5. But he pointed out that a successful challenge would have no impact on the newly elected City Council. In that situation, an amended plan would be drawn up to be used for the city elections in 1995.

Authors of the ordinance, led by Councilman Carl Stokes, D-2nd, said it was intended to dilute the influence of the political machines and to provide opportunities for blacks to be elected to the council.

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