The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (the “Commission”) established final congressional and legislative plans for the 2002 elections (the “Plan”). The Arizona Minority Coalition for Fair Redistricting (the “Coalition”) sued the Commission in March 2002 and challenged the constitutionality of the Plan. After an initial decision by the trial court, the Court of Appeals remanded and instructed the trial court to decide whether the Commission violated the Equal Protection Clause and/or Article 4, Part 2, Sections 1(14) and (15) of the Arizona Constitution. On remand, the Coalition abandoned the Equal Protection challenge. The trial court found that the Commission’s plan was in violation of Sections 1(14) – (16). The Commission appealed.
The Arizona Appeals Court reversed in part and vacated in part the trial court’s decision. In creating legislative districts, the Commission must follow a four-part constitutional plan. Pursuant to Section 1(14), in the second phase of the plan the Commission must make adjustments to its map to accommodate six goals, including the goal of favoring competitive districts “to the extent practicable.” The Commission argued that the trial court failed properly to apply the rational basis standard required by the Court’s prior mandate. The Court explained, however, that because the Coalition abandoned its Equal Protection, the issue turned only on whether the Commission, as a constitutional administrative agency, had substantial facts to support its findings. Under that standard of review, the Court found that the Commission’s findings regarding competitiveness were supported by substantial evidence and reversed the trial court’s decision that the Plan violated Section 1(14). The Court vacated the trial court’s decision on Sections 1(15) and (16). The Court noted also that the Coalition had abandoned its claim under Section 1(15) on remand. The Court further found that the trial court exceeded its authority by considering Section 1(16) when that section was not included in the mandate on remand.
Judge Portley authored the opinion; Judges Hall and Snow concurred.