by Max Brantley
A tipster says Secretary of State Mark Martin intends to hire his own counsel, at additional expense, to represent him in the federal lawsuit by Sen. Jack Crumbly challenging legislative redistricting plans for the Senate. Crumbly and others contend his majority black district isn't sufficiently majority black to essentially guarantee election of a black senator.
The attorney general will defend the plan. I'm told Martin has hired Asa Hutchinson, the former congressman and Republican politico, to represent him. A spokesman for Martin declined to confirm this, reveal the pay or explain the separate counsel to me, saying an official announcement was planned for 10 a.m.
Hutchinson has a history on redistricting. As Republican chair in 1991, he pushed for a plan to pack as many blacks as possible into the 1st Congressional District. This would not have produced a majority black district, but it would have dramatically reduced black influence (and thus Democratic votes) in other districts. Hutchinson will undoubtedly pursue the same course here.
I also hear that the three-judge panel has been named to consider this case. They are all Republican appointees as it happens — district Judges Susan Webber Wright and Leon Holmes and 8th Circuit Judge Lavenski Smith.
UPDATE: Martin has confirmed hiring of Hutchinson's law firm in a news release, but refuses to discuss the reasons and has not revealed how much money he'll be paying, or even at what rate. Noted: He has two lawyers on his staff already, A.J. Kelley and Martha Adcock.
UPDATE II: I made an FOI request and received a copy of the letter from Asa Hutchinson setting out terms of the agreement. He and other lawyers will be paid $200 an hour (a reduction from his usual rate, he says) plus expenses.
Arkansas Secretary of State Mark Martin announced today that The Asa Hutchinson Law Group, PLC, will represent the office in the federal lawsuit filed by Future Mae Jeffers, state Senator Jack Crumbly and a number of other plaintiffs.
Martin is named as a defendant, along with Governor Mike Beebe and Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, in a civil rights lawsuit pertaining to legislative redistricting. The three comprise the Board of Apportionment.
The lawsuit alleges that the new Senate District 24 (parts of Cross, Crittenden, St. Francis, Lee and Phillips counties) dilutes minority voting strength and reduces minorities’ chances of electing a state senator of their choice.
“Many people know that the Board adopted the proposed Senate maps on a split vote,” Martin said. “The vote is a public record. Since suit has been filed, I do not want to comment any more on the pending litigation, or related issues. Exercising an abundance of caution, my office has retained separate counsel for this lawsuit, as we have in some cases in the past.”