June 1, 2023 By Stephen Regan
Two local attorneys, Paul J. Gannon and Joseph Phelan, both of Hingham played key roles in a recent federal court ruling that found Boston’s redistricting process likely violated the U.S. Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment.
In her ruling, US District Court Judge Patti Saris stated that plaintiffs were likely to be successful in their argument that race was a predominant factor used to draw the district boundaries. Therefore she granted the plaintiffs request for a preliminary injunction, which bars the current district map from being used in the upcoming election.
“The Court ALLOWS the motion for preliminary injunction. Plaintiffs have demonstrated a likelihood of success in showing that race played a predominant role in the City Council’s redrawing of Districts 3 and 4 in the enacted map, and Defendants have not demonstrated that the enacted redistricting map is narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling interest.”
The case was initially brought last fall by attorneys Gannon and Phelan on behalf of several Boston registered voters and civic associations. They felt the districts, as drawn, negatively impacted several Boston neighborhoods and that members of the Boston City Council had violated the states Open Meeting Law.
On October 26th, 2022 the City of Boston and the City Council were served notice of three separate violations of the Open Meeting Law related to the public hearings on the redistricting plan. On November 2, 2022 the Boston City Council voted to adopt the controversial plan and attorneys Gannon and Phelan filed for injunctive relief in Suffolk Superior Court. This would effectively enjoin the city from using the controversial plan.
Also in November attorneys Gannon and Phelan were joined by attorneys Glen Hannington and Fred Dashiell. Together they filed an amended complaint that added violations of the Voting Rights Act and the Fourteenth Amendment of the US Constitution. A six day hearing was held in April in US District Court in Boston. Witnesses included US Representative Stephen Lynch, former Boston City Councilor and City Clerk Maureen Feeney, City Councilor Michael Flaherty, city residents and an expert in the field of redistricting.
Attorney Gannon presented the closing arguments on April 4, 2023 before Judge Saris. She issued her ruling on May 8, 2023, and in a major rebuke to the Boston City Council ordered that the electoral maps that were approved in November could not be used and granted the plaintiffs the preliminary injunction they sought. The judge also ordered the Boston City Council to be the one responsible for drawing new district boundaries.
Mayor Wu has set a May 30th deadline for the Boston City Council to draw a new electoral map.
Attorney Gannon is a Hingham resident and former South Boston state representative. He also served on the Hingham School Committee and as a member of the Hingham Selectboard. Attorney Phelan is also a Hingham resident whose law practice in located on Main Street in Hingham.