Rockland redistricting: Judge rejects challenge to new map

“A New York State Supreme Court judge has rejected a resident’s request to void the county’s redistricting plan for 17 Legislature seats, allowing the county scheme to remain for the November elections.

Justice Sherri Eisenpress upheld the county’s motion to dismiss the legal action filed in January by Ramapo resident Michael Parietti, a perennial candidate for office and critic of many government policies.

Michael Parietti addressing the Rockland County Legislature

Parietti called Eisenpress’s conclusion he lacked standing to challenge the county redistricting plan “ridiculous,” characterizing the judge’s decision as political. He said he’s confident “that a fair hearing before a panel of impartial appellate judges will vindicate our position.”

Redistricting decision: Supreme Court Justice Sherri Eisenpress rejects challenge

Hearing: Judge set to rule after hearing pros, cons on equity of Rockland’s election district map

Parietti’s lawsuit: Michael Parietti seeks to void legislative redistricting map

Parietti had argued the map, approved by the Legislature last year and signed by County Executive Ed Day, was unconstitutional and in violation of the federal Voting Rights Act and state laws. Parietti contended the map disenfranchised non-white voters, broke up communities into different districts, boosted the chances of incumbents winning re-election, and further empowered the Orthodox-Hasidic Jewish communities to decide who sits on the Legislature.

The county’s lead attorney, Robert Spolzino, countered Parietti lacked standing to take legal action representing other citizens and to assert racial dilution under the voting rights law. Spolzino argued Parietti offered mostly opinion and speculation without empirical evidence.

Judge rejects Parietti’s arguments

Eisenpress agreed that Parietti lacked standing to challenge the map. She wrote Parietti had not proven he was an injured party and he needed to show personal harm distinguishable from the general public.

She found he couldn’t, as a white voter, challenge the map based on non-white racial grounds, and that he didn’t live in the districts he was challenging.

The judge wrote actions by the Legislature “are entitled to a strong presumption of constitutionality.”

She agreed with the county’s lawyer that Parietti mixed facts with speculation and opinion.

Thus while the court may be sympathetic to Parietti’s philosophical standing argument – that when any individual voter is harmed all voters are harmed – this generalized assertion of intangible public inquiry does not satisfy the injury in fact requirement,” Eisenpress wrote.

Reaction: Legislature reacts to redistricting decision

Parietti, a non-attorney and West Point graduate, said Eisenpress mimicked the county’s lawyer, Spolzino, a former judge. Parietti claimed Spolzino’s dismissal papers contained errors that he corrected but the judge ignored.

“The decision is a true embarrassment to the judicial process in Rockland County,” Parietti said, adding he had asked Eisenpress to recuse herself from the case.

On the judge’s declaration he lacked the legal right to challenge the redistricting map, Parietti cited the dismissal of his evidence.

Wilbur Aldridge, the NAACP Mid-Hudson Valley regional director from Haverstraw, said the districts may look fair today, but demographics could change the population balance in five years and disadvantage some voters.

Micheal Miller, the founder of CUPON-Rockland, a group opposed to overdevelopment, said the redistricting favors the “religious community” at the expense of minority communities.”

Read the complete Journal News coverage here.