Scudiere recuses herself from ward and boundary suit against city

Judge Deb Scudiere

MORGANTOWN — Due to a previous working relationship with the City of Morgantown, Circuit Court Judge Deb Scudiere will not hear a lawsuit aimed at forcing the city to better equalize the population of its seven wards.
Scudiere recused herself on Monday at the request of Michael “Ty” Clifford, the attorney for Roger Banks, a member of the city’s Ward & Boundary Commission.
Banks is asking for a court order compelling the city to address the disparity in ward size as well as an injunction blocking any city election until such action is taken.
However, given the city is now a week from its April 30 city council election, the injunction appears to be off the table as the parties await the appointment of another judge.
Banks filed the suit on March 19.
The City of Morgantown,  City Manager Paul Brake, Ward & Boundary Commission Chairman Roy Nutter and city council members Rachel Fetty, Bill Kawecki, Ryan Wallace, Jenny Selin, Ron Dulaney, Mark Brazaitis and Barry Wendell are all listed as respondents.
Clifford previously explained that precedent comes from case law dating back to 1964, which says legislative districts should be equal in population — or as the city charter puts it, “shall contain nearly as practicable the same total population.”
That same case law states deviation exceeding 10 percent creates a prima facie violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.
Clifford said that the most recent report filed by the Ward & Boundary Commission and accepted by city council included deviations of 35 percent in population numbers between wards.
According to Clifford, no substantive changes have been made to the city’s ward boundaries since the 1980s.
Banks, a third-term member of the Ward & Boundary Commission, was the lone vote against presenting the report to city council, which voted unanimously to accept its recommendation that no changes be made to alter the city’s wards.

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