After confidential memo, redistricting panel adds 6 new maps bringing total to 15

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

East Lansing — Michigan's Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission received a total of six individual maps from commissioners Monday after the panel read a confidential memo regarding the legal risks associated with the submissions. 

The six maps submitted Monday will join the nine collaborative maps the commission finished last week. Starting this weekend, the 15 maps — complete with data analysis and legal descriptions — will be posted for 45 days of public comment. 

The legal memo given to commissioners Monday was not released publicly, and commissioners declined to release it to reporters at the meeting.

Four commissioners were absent from Monday's meeting: Commissioners Doug Clark, Rhonda Lange, Rebecca Szetela and Janice Vallette. 

Michigan's Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission received a total of five individual map submissions from commissioners Monday after receiving a confidential memo regarding the legality of the submissions.

The maps submitted Monday included a state Senate map from Commissioner Brittni Kellom, a Democrat; a state Senate and Congressional map from Lange, a Republican; and a state House, state Senate map and a congressional map from Szetela, a non-affiliated member. The individual maps will be posted with data analysis Tuesday, Woods said. 

The confidential memo from the commission's litigation counsel, BakerHostetler, came after the commission last week voted to ignore the advice of their general counsel and interpret the 2018 constitutional language to allow members to submit individual maps ahead of the 45-day public comment period.

General Counsel Julianne Pastula told commissioners last week that her reading of the Constitution indicated individual maps could only be submitted in the event of a failed majority vote on the collaborative maps at the end of December. 

But commissioners argued last week that such a timeline would prevent the individual maps from being subject to the same 45 days of public comment, decreasing the transparency around the process.

On Monday morning, commissioners received a confidential memo from BakerHostetler on the matter. The commissioners individually read the memo during a 30-minute break in the meeting, after which they came back into session and Pastula motioned to proceed as planned with the new individual map schedule. 

Pastula decided to call for the vote — despite the fact that the commission had not discussed the memo — after consultation with BakerHostetler, said Edward Woods III, a spokesman for the commission. 

Pastula said the memo was protected from disclosure under attorney-client privilege. 

When asked what the difference was between the advice she gave openly in last week's meeting and the confidential legal memo shielded Monday, Pastula said BakerHostetler's advice was relative to "any potential legal risk."

"That's a bedrock principle of the attorney client relationship is that we are able to communicate with our clients confidentially again about legal risks, legal exposure, future legal considerations. And that's what that is rooted in," Pastula said.

"We are committed to transparency and providing the information to the public but there is advice that I give to my clients as their attorney that is, for my clients, relative to our relationship," she said.

eleblanc@detroitnews.com