by Dr. Andy Jackson
Director of the Civitas Center for Public Integrity, John Locke Foundation
The trial phase of North Carolina’s latest redistricting trial ended Friday, January 6.
During the trial, Rep. Destin Hall (R – Caldwell) testified that he and legislative attorney Dylan Reel had produced some “concept maps” in what he called “strategy sessions” out of public view while drawing the official North Carolina House districts on a public terminal. The maps were discarded after the official maps were drawn but before the plaintiffs’ lawsuits against the enacted maps were filed.
Reel no longer works at the General Assembly and so was not included in the discovery phase of the trial.
In response to the revelation about Hall and Reel’s concept maps, plaintiffs asked the court to impose “discovery sanctions,” on the defendants. Two of those sanctions would have had a significant impact on the trial:
The three judges in charge of the trial were less impressed with plaintiffs’ claims about Hall’s concept maps, however. They refused to impose any of the sanctions plaintiffs asked them to impose on the defendants. They also pointed out that plaintiffs had the means to get testimony from Reel about the concept maps (page 4):
So plaintiffs could have gotten testimony from someone who had direct knowledge of Hall’s concept maps but chose not to get it. Their lack of curiosity about what Reel knows about the concept maps is curious.
Was it laziness that caused plaintiffs’ attorneys not to subpoena Reel? Probably not. A more likely “adverse inference” is that they were not interested in discovering the truth about those maps but simply wanted to use their existence to get the court to toss out evidence detrimental to their case.
The court was not buying what plaintiffs were selling, at least in regards to discovery sanctions.
It is possible that the court will hold Hall’s testimony about concept maps against the defendants when they rule on the case. The acid test for that is if they treat the North Carolina House map (drawn by Hall) differently than they treat the North Carolina Senate and congressional maps (drawn by the senate).
We will know that soon: the court will render its verdict by Tuesday, January 11.