A panel of federal judges dismissed a lawsuit today that would have redrawn southern Florida's political landscape to cure what the plaintiff alleged was a scheme to ensure the election of black and Hispanic candidates.
The judges ruled that the plaintiff, Thomas Fouts, a Republican real estate agent from the Florida Keys, waited five years to press his case, which was far too long. The judges also balked at redrawing Florida's political boundaries according to nine-year-old census figures when a new federal count will be performed in 2000.
Democratic lawmakers fought the case in Key West on Oct. 12. "This lawsuit was nothing more than a political land grab dressed up as a lawsuit," said Rep. Peter Deutsch (D-Fla.) through his spokesman, Ray Krauze.
Deutsch's district would have been affected by the remaining claims in the suit, which originally targeted the districts of three members of Congress--Reps. Carrie P. Meek and Alcee L. Hastings, both Democrats, and Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, as well as two members of the state legislature.
Redrawing those seats as demanded in the lawsuit would also have forced Florida's government, which draws the state's political districts, to alter the districts of Deutsch and Rep. E. Clay Shaw Jr., a Republican.
Fouts, who is white, brought the suit against the state after running unsuccessfully for a seat in the state legislature.