The sound of waves not being made

The Tina Kotek Memorial Gerrymandering Maps that set up Oregon's six new congressional districts have survived their first court test. The "Portland Pinwheel" is getting ready to turn.

Under state law, the lawsuit over the maps is being considered by a special panel of five judges, one from each of the five existing congressional districts. The chief justice of the state supreme court names them, and she's chosen five retired circuit court judges, which is her right. They're all distinguished, experienced judges, as far as I can tell. They in turn can ask to have a "special master" appointed to collect all the facts, and they have done so. The chief justice has appointed Judge Henry Breithaupt, the retired judge of the Oregon Tax Court, to be the fact-finder.

This past week, Judge Breithaupt (who is my friend and former partner) issued his findings, and they are not looking good for the opponents of the new district boundaries. The judge has found little or nothing objectionable about the maps.

Will the five-judge panel accept his views? I would think so. The only one of the five who I think might not go along is Judge William Cramer, from out in Harney and Grant Counties (think Burns). He spent his bench career handling cases like the Portland police chief who shot his friend while out hunting, and the environmentalists who tried to stop a coyote hunt

Judge Cramer may or may not go with the flow. But the other four? I suspect they will concur with Judge Breithaupt's views. They are Judges Mary James from Salem, who threw out the Measure 37 property rights initiative; Katherine Tennyson from Portland, whose family law docket included the Jordan Schnitzer child visitation flap; Paula Brownhill from Astoria, who was a champion of children's issues (and presided at my wedding); and Richard Barron from Coos Bay, who handled the New Carissa shipwreck cleanup case and once threw out term limits in Douglas County. They will all do their best to apply the law fairly and impartially, but the odds of their finding fault with the maps seem long indeed.

From them, the maps will go to the state supreme court, and the chances of judicial intervention there seem even skinnier. This week the justices upheld the City of Portland's landlord-tenant ordinances, which impose heavy financial burdens on certain landlords who want to evict people after increasing rents. Only one justice, Christopher Garrett, dissented, saying that the city had imposed rent control, which is forbidden by state law, and just put a different label on it. 

Oh well, at least the opponents got a dissent. When the city imposed its infernal $35-a-person head tax for the arts, they called it an income tax, and not a single judge in the entire state court system was willing to look through the city's phony label.

And so I think it's looking good for the Pinwheel. The Woodstock neighborhood of Portland is now one with Bend. Raleigh Hills is now one with Albany. It's all so logical, and innocent. Really.


  1. What’s the solution, when Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, NC, FL, and TX are being gerrymandered for the Trumpists to a much greater extent? Should blue state D’s forego gerrymandering because we can be sure that, once they have their 234-200 majority, the GOP will suddenly decide that partisan gerrymandering is bad and start drawing fair lines? If Manchinema wasn’t in charge, we could pass the “For the People Act” despite the GOP filibuster and outlaw partisan gerrymanders — which the Supreme Court has said is unobjectionable otherwise. Absent a national cease-fire in the gerrymandering wars, should D’s just disarm?


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