Although a settlement seemed possible in November, Thursday attorneys involved in the lawsuit over Georgia's House and Senate districts wrangled over what the U.S. Justice Department has to divulge.
U.S. District Judge Dudley H. Bowen Jr. swept aside broad claims by the Justice Department that thousands of documents are protected from scrutiny in the lawsuit. Therefore, the tedious process began Thursday afternoon to determine which of the documents contained in six boxes would be turned over to the plaintiffs who are trying to change the manner in which voting district lines are drawn in Georgia. The process is expected to continue today.
Although the Justice Department has withdrawn its objection to the 1995 district map - the subject of the lawsuit filed by a group of white voters last spring - the lawsuit is pending. A settlement isn't possible until the discovery phase is completed, the plaintiff's attorney, A. Lee Parks, said.
"I have not merely the hope but the expectation that as we go through these documents that most of the controversy will evaporate," Judge Bowen said. He was one of three district judges who temporarily approved most of the 1995 district map on April 30 so that the 1996 elections could be held.
Still subject to the lawsuit are the plaintiff's challenges to the constitutionality of 15 House districts and five Senate districts - including state Sen. Charles W. Walker's District 22 in Augusta. They alleged the predominate reasoning for the district lines was race which the U.S. Supreme Court has determined is unconstitutional.