AUSTIN, Texas—The University of Texas School of Law will host a symposium on Friday, March 2, about the 2003 Congressional redistricting in Texas, which is also the focus of a new book by adjunct Law Professor Steve Bickerstaff. The event is free and open to the public.
Published this month by The University of Texas Press, "Lines in the Sand: Congressional Redistricting in Texas and the Downfall of Tom Delay" is a comprehensive look at the efforts by Republican lawmakers in 2003—led by former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay—to redraw Texas’s 32 Congressional districts. The book also provides insights into the 2002 campaign activities that made the redistricting possible, and the civil and criminal court proceedings that followed.
The day-long symposium—beginning at 8:45 a.m. in the Law School’s Eidman Courtroom—features the book and the issues it raises, bringing together Bickerstaff with key players and observers in the Texas redistricting case, as well as a number of election law experts from across the nation.
Panelists include Republican and Democratic legislators involved in the passage of the redistricting legislation, the prosecutors and criminal defense attorneys involved in the criminal proceedings, the attorneys who handled the civil litigation and four law school professors from The University of Texas at Austin and elsewhere who will discuss the legal significance of what happened. A detailed schedule of the symposium is available online [PDF].
In the book, Bickerstaff provides a front-line account of what happened in 2003, often through the personal stories of members of both parties and the minority activist groups caught in the redistricting battle-considered a landmark battle in American election law annual. It included Democratic state legislators twice fleeing the state in an ultimately futile effort to prevent a Republican triumph.
William P. Hobby, former lieutenant governor of Texas, noted that the book is "an important story told in exciting detail. It seems as though the reader is watching the events unfold on a daily and sometimes hourly basis."
The book also probes the aftermath of the 2003 events, including the criminal prosecutions of DeLay and his associates and the events that led to DeLay’s eventual resignation from the U.S. House of Representatives—and, in some observers’ views, led directly to significant Democratic gains in the 2006 Congressional elections. In addition, it examines how DeLay-like strategies to affect state and local elections have been influenced by the Texas case.
Bickerstaff, an election law specialist, also examines legal implications of the 2003 redistricting battle in the book, which includes analysis of cases involving gerrymandering, mid-decade redistricting, the effect redistricting has on minorities, and effects on the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He specifically criticizes the June 2006 Supreme Court ruling for opening the door for states and local governments to engage in mid-decade redistricting.
Bickerstaff practiced law for about 30 years before retiring from the Austin law firm he founded in 1980-Bickerstaff, Heath and Smiley (now Bickerstaff, Heath, Pollan and Caroom). He has been an adjunct law professor at The University of Texas at Austin since 1992. He teaches a law course titled "Constitutional Law, The Law of Elections, Redistricting and Campaign Finance." Learn more about Bickerstaff.