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The commission that's redrawing California's congressional, legislative and Board of Equalization districts is poised to hire two of the state's most prominent law firms to defend its maps against almost certain legal challenges.

A two-member committee of the Citizens Redistricting Commission interviewed five firms and on Thursday, recommended that it hire Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher -- which is already providing the commission with advice on federal Voting Rights Act issues -- and Morrison and Foerster, which goes by the acronym MoFo.

George Brown, the Gibson, Dunn partner who has been the commission's day-to-day legal adviser, will head the defense team for his firm. The lead MoFo attorney is James Brosnahan, best known as a principal attorney for the successful federal court challenge to Proposition 8, California's anti-gay marriage initiative, and for representing John Walker Lindh, the American accused of supporting the Taliban.

The 14-member commission is making final adjustments to its maps in anticipation of a July 28 release. Choosing a legal defense team is important because everyone involved expects that the new maps will face both immediate legal challenges, alleging violation of federal and state laws, and one or more signature drives to overturn the maps via referendum.

There also may be appeals to the U.S. Justice Department for intervention on Voting Rights Act grounds.

The legal defense contract will be for at least $500,000 and could be as much as $1.5 million if there is prolonged litigation.


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