Federal judges will decide today if the Maryland legislature acted illegally this fall when it divvied up Anne Arundel County among four congressional districts.
Attorney John Greiber, who represents county political leaders and several residents, will ask a three-judge panel in Baltimore to throw out the new districts in favor of a map that leaves Anne Arundel intact.
The state Attorney General's Office will argue that the General Assembly acted properly when it approved a redistricting plan Oct. 22 and ask the court to dismiss the county's bipartisan suit, said Assistant Attorney General Evelyn Cannon.
Area leaders say the outcome may hinge not on whether the districts are illegal, but on whether the federal court will intervene with only 10 days left before candidates must file to run in the March 3 primary.
"I truly believe the merits of the case are in our favor," said Delegate John Gary, R-Millersville. "But we could go into court tomorrow, and the judges could say, 'Yes, Anne Arundel County has been aggrieved . . . but because you are so close to the primary, we think we would cause still more damage by overruling the General Assembly.' "
County leaders fear that because Anne Arundel, the state's fifth-largest subdivision, does not have a majority in any district under the plan, it will lose its voice on Capitol Hill.
Leaders praised Greiber, who did much of thelegwork alone. He spent the last several weeks interviewing State House leaders and other architects of the districts and answering an avalanche of legal motions filed by the Attorney General's Office.
Yesterday, he was still scrambling to put the finishing touches on thecase, transcribing recordings of the Senate proceedings.
"The Attorney General's Office has just barraged him with paperwork," said state Sen. Michael J. Wagner, D-Ferndale.
Although the county's Democratic and Republican parties have raised more than $20,000 to finance the legal challenge, they have not hired any additional legal help.And Greiber has received little more than "moral support" from County Executive Robert R. Neall's Office of Law.
"Greiber doesn't sound as full of vigor as he did a couple of weeks ago," Wagner said. "I don't know if that's (due to) the lack of support he's received."
State Sen. Philip C. Jimeno, D-Brooklyn Park, said county residents frequently complain about the redistricting, but noted that the expected groundswell of public opposition never materialized.
"People are outraged, but the budget and the economy seem to have overshadowed everything else," Jimeno said.
Delegate Michael Busch, D-Annapolis, agreed, saying, "While I know they are concerned about their representation, when you start talking about their pocketbooks and putting food on the table, it overrides everything else."