A federal judge in Baltimore today granted the city's motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Dr. Ross Z. Pierpont and a black voter to block use of the new councilmanic districts in this year's primary and general elections.
Judge J. Frederick Motz, sitting in U.S. District Court, ruled that the civil rights suit, filed June 27, came too late to be considered without unduly prejudicing candidates who already are campaigning and city election officials who are engaged in organizing the elections and printing ballots.
Pierpont, a white surgeon and perennial Republican candidate for public office, argued that the redistricting plan, adopted by the City Council in March, disenfranchises black voters.
"What we have here is a hastily prepared, ill-conceived plan to ensure the re-election of incumbents," Pierpont said. "It's legal gerrymandering that is out of control."
Co-plaintiff Aaron K. Wilkes said that the redistricting plan could reduce the number of black council members from seven to six despite claims that the plan enhances blacks' chances for election.
"All we're asking for is a level playing field," Wilkes said.
City Solicitor Neal M. Janey argued that blacks would have a better chance of election in the new districts than the old ones.
Motz credited Pierpont and Wilkes for being "public-spirited citizens" but said they did not present sufficient evidence of improper conduct by the council in enacting the redistricting plan to warrant further consideration.
The judge did not comment on the plan's fairness.
Proponents of the redistricting plan maintain that blacks are under-represented on the City Council.