A federal judge on Tuesday rejected a three-year-old legal challenge to the boundaries drawn for Los Angeles' 15
U.S. District Judge Consuelo B. Marshall said lawyers for the city provided "undisputed evidence" that the boundaries approved by the council achieved "traditional non-racial redistricting" goals, such as keeping distinct communities and neighborhood councils in the same district.
The ruling delivered a major victory to council President
Foes of the 2012 redistricting vote maintained that Wesson's district, which stretches from Koreatown to the Crenshaw corridor, was drawn primarily based on race, with council members explicitly working to increase the percentage of African American voters within its borders. Opponents said a district in South Los Angeles, now represented by Councilman
In her decision, Marshall described both districts as geographically compact and racially diverse, unlike those that have been struck down in other federal court cases. The demographics, she said, "do not support plaintiffs' claim that the city … engaged in the 'unlawful segregation of races of citizens into different voting districts,'" she wrote.
Wesson praised the city's lawyers for providing "excellent" representation.
"It's now time to move on with the city's business," he said in a statement.
The council's redistricting process produced grievances that continue to reverberate today. In South Los Angeles, Councilman
Koreatown activist Grace Yoo, who testified against the boundaries in 2012 and is now running to unseat Wesson, said she was "extremely disappointed" with the judge's decision. She said Wesson himself made statements that bolstered the plaintiffs' case.
In 2012, months after the redistricting vote, Wesson was recorded telling a group of ministers that the maps were drawn in a way that ensured that "a minimum of two of the council people will be black for the next 30 years."
"We have Wesson talking about how these [lines] were drawn for racial purposes on video," she said.
In her ruling, Marshall said that the evidence showed only that "some individuals" -- Wesson and one of his appointees on the city's redistricting commission -- "may have been motivated by racial considerations." To prevail, the plaintiffs needed evidence to show that race was "the predominant or only motivating factor," she wrote.
The council district boundaries have been in place since July 2012. Voters went to the polls in 2013 to elect new representatives in roughly half of those districts. Tuesday's election will see contests for another seven council seats.