Arizona Court Overturns Firing of Redistricting Leader by Brewer

Arizona’s Supreme Court rejected Republican Governor Jan Brewer’s dismissal of the woman who led the panel redrawing the state’s political boundaries and ordered her reinstated.

In returning Colleen Mathis to her post as the chairwoman of the Independent Redistricting Commission yesterday, the court said Brewer didn’t show “substantial neglect of duty” or “gross misconduct in office” by Mathis. Those are among the constitutional standards by which the governor can remove a commissioner with support from two-thirds of the state Senate.

Brewer accused Mathis, a registered independent, and other commissioners of conducting business in secrecy and not following constitutional requirements when they adopted draft maps of electoral districts. While the boundaries favored Republicans, the maps as drawn may help Democrats gain seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. The Republican-run Senate backed Brewer as some lawmakers accused Mathis of siding too often with the panel’s Democratic members.

Mathis, who challenged her dismissal, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mailed message seeking comment on the court ruling. In an Oct. 31 letter to Brewer, she said she tried to be “honest, fair and impartial” in her work on the panel.

As the lone independent, Mathis was selected as its leader by the other members, two of whom were chosen by legislative Republicans and two by Democrats. The commission was created by a voter referendum in 2000 and is one of the only politically unaligned bodies of its sort in the U.S.

The high court’s justices said a full decision would be released later.

Brewer “strongly disagrees” with the decision, said Matthew Benson, her spokesman. “The governor and legislative leaders will be considering their options going forward.”

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