The plaintiffs in a case that challenged Wisconsin’s 2011 redistricting agreed Wednesday to drop an effort to determine why Republicans failed to turn over records to them after finding no evidence of malicious intent.
In a report to a three-judge panel, the two sides in the litigation said they found no solid proof the thousands of files deleted from state computers were removed with bad intent nor that turning those files over to plaintiffs would have changed the outcome of a federal case challenging Wisconsin’s redistricting.
The report filed Wednesday sought to assess why records were not properly turned over to plaintiffs challenging the secretive process in which Wisconsin Republican leaders redrew state legislative and congressional districts following the 2010 census.
“Compliance with the plaintiffs’ subpoenas, and the court’s orders regarding them, by the Legislature, its employees, consultants and counsel was not complete,” according to the report, filed jointly by attorneys for both sides.
“Whether such incompleteness was the result of inadvertence or ineptitude or otherwise cannot be determined.”
The report was part of a post-trial effort to investigate why the state failed to turn over records that were court-ordered to be given to the plaintiffs, who include Democratic lawmakers, individuals and the Milwaukee group Voces de la Frontera. The case is being handled in the U.S. District Court in Milwaukee.
Wednesday’s filing includes hundreds of pages of depositions taken of legislative aides Tad Ottman and Adam Foltz and of Joe Handrick, a former lawmaker who worked on redistricting on behalf of Republicans.
Computers used in the redistricting were for a time located at the Michael Best and Friedrich law firm in Madison.
Asked if he had removed any files from his state computer housed at the law firm, Handrick replied, “I never deleted anything from that computer.”
In an earlier report, the plaintiffs said a forensic examination found that legislative aides appeared to have deleted “hundreds of thousands” of files at “suspicious times” from state computers.
But after further examination and sworn statements from Ottman, Foltz and Handrick, the report concluded, “No direct or clear and convincing evidence has come to light to date showing ... that such non-production was the result of intentional, deliberate or contumacious disregard of the subpoenas or the court’s orders by anyone.”
The main case was resolved last year with only minor changes to two legislative districts in the Milwaukee area to protect the rights of Hispanic voters. And now the post-trial wrangling may be over.
Madison attorney Douglas Poland told the judges Wednesday that the plaintiffs’ settlement agreement with Michael Best and Friedrich “resolves the issues before this court.”