Common Cause NY Files Challenge to 63rd Senate District

For Immediate Release:

Contact: Susan Lerner

April 23, 2012


Common Cause NY Files Challenge to 63rd Senate District

Gibson Dunn Will Lead Effort In Court

Common Cause NY, an outspoken advocate for redistricting reform, filed a “Friend of the Court” brief to challenge a public law to expand the size of the New York State Senate. The filing was made this morning by the international law firm representing Common Cause on a pro bono basis, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher.

In December, 2011 Common Cause NY released the only set of statewide reform state and federal redistricting maps, which were widely hailed as a fair nonpartisan alternative to the legislature’s plan by Newsday, the New York Times, the Daily News, the Syracuse Post Standard and others. Common Cause NY’s congressional maps heavily informed the final version created by the court appointed Special Master. Common Cause NY has consistently opposed the politically motivated creation of a 63rd senate district.

On March 15, 2012 the Senate, with only the Republican Conference voting, passed a bill, Chapter 16 of the Laws of 2012, which expanded the size of the New York State Senate from 62 members to 63 members. The Legislature took these actions by manipulating the State Constitution’s census-counting formula that must be used every 10 years to determine the size of the Senate. Specifically, they used one method of applying the formula to calculate census-growth in Nassau and Queens counties, but used a completely different method to calculate census-growth in Richmond and Suffolk counties. This manipulation provided the Republican majority with the ability to add a new 63rd seat to upstate New York where they are politically dominant.

The Senate Democratic Conference challenged the bill as unconstitutional, and a lower court refused to overturn the law in an opinion on April 6, 2012. The Court of Appeals for the state of New York, the highest court in the state, agreed to hear arguments on the lower court’s ruling on April 26, 2012.

Today, Common Cause NY filed an amicus (Friend of the Court) brief (available here) with the New York Court of Appeals, highlighting the various constitutional problems with Chapter 16 and the lower court’s evaluation of it. Susan Lerner, the Executive Director of Common Cause NY, said: “Today’s filing is the logical next step in Common Cause’s consistent and unwavering efforts to produce a non-gerrymandered electoral map which values communities of interest over political self-interest. New Yorkers should not be forced to live under a patently unconstitutional, unfair, and undemocratic process for a decade.”

Jim Walden, the Gibson Dunn partner leading the effort in court, said, “You cannot change the rules secretly in the middle of the game and stay true to the Constitution. The Republican majority switched formulas for one reason only: to maintain its stranglehold on Senate control. It is unfathomable the Court of Appeals would approve this naked grab for power under established constitutional principles, no matter which party did it. We are pleased to be representing New York’s premier good-government group in this fight.”

About Common Cause New York

Common Cause is a nonpartisan, nonprofit advocacy organization founded as a vehicle for citizens to make their voices heard in the political process and to hold their elected leaders accountable to the public interest. Common Cause is at the forefront of the movement for independent redistricting, campaign finance and ethics reform, corporate accountability and elections that are honest, inclusive and verifiable.

About Gibson Dunn

Gibson, Dunn & Crutches LLP is a leading international law firm. Consistently ranking among the world’s top law firms in industry surveys and major publications, Gibson Dunn is distinctively positioned in today’s global marketplace with more than 1,000 lawyers and 17 offices, including Brussels, Century City, Dallas, Denver, Dubai, Hong Kong, London, Los Angeles, Munich, New York, Orange County, Palo Alto, Paris, San Francisco, S‘o Paulo, Singapore, and Washington, D.C. For more information, please visit

Common Cause – AMICUS BRIEF