Judges appointed to redistricting panel

Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie Gildea has appointed five judges to a redistricting panel that will begin hearing challenges over the process to redraw congressional and legislative district boundaries using 2010 census data.

Gildea appointed Wilhelmina Wright as the presiding judge. Judges Ivy Bernhardson, James Florey, Edward Lynch and John Rodenberg were also named to the panel.

Wright is on the state Court of Appeals, Bernhardson is a Family Court judge in Hennepin County, Florey is chief judge in St. Louis County, Lynch is chief judge in Dakota County and Rodenberg is a Brown County judge.

The GOP-controlled Legislature is charged with proposing a redistricting plan and having DFL Gov. Mark Dayton sign off on it ahead of the 2012 primary and general elections. But because the two sides will likely be at odds over the boundaries, many observers expect the courts will have to decide on where congressional and legislative districts should be.

In a separate case filed in federal court, several Democrats have asked that federal court take over the process. A hearing on the proposal is scheduled for Monday.

Secretary of State Mark Ritchie had argued that appointing a redistricting panel was premature, because a special session of the Legislature is expected to be called and a plan could be worked out then. But Gildea disagreed.

"Although future agreement on redistricting legislation by the legislative and executive branches remains a possibility, in light of the significant duties and responsibilities to be undertaken by the panel and the requirement for completion of redistricting in time for the 2012 election cycle, appointment of a redistricting panel is now necessary and appropriate," Gildea wrote.

The five judges named to the panel have been appointed by four different governors. Wright and Rodenberg were appointed by Gov. Jesse Ventura, an independent. DFL Gov. Rudy Perpich appointed Lynch, Republican Gov. Arne Carlson appointed Florey and Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty appointed Bernhardson.

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