Court-ordered map.

Jacksonville has dropped its appeal of a court ruling finding the City Council had segregated voters by race, announcing in a motion it would focus its efforts instead on fighting a federal court’s remedial map.

The city has lost five times in court so far related to the City Council’s redistricting efforts.

In October, U.S. District Judge Marcia Morales Howard ruled the city had unconstitutionally segregated voters on the basis of race. The city unsuccessfully tried to persuade Howard and then an appellate court to stay that order.

Last month, Howard found the city’s second attempt at redistricting still violated the U.S. Constitution, and she ordered the city to use new maps drawn by the plaintiffs, who include voters and the Jacksonville Branch of the NAACP, the Northside Coalition of Jacksonville and other civil-rights organizations. An appeals court rejected the city’s attempt to stop those maps.

The city’s latest motion means it will no longer appeal Howard’s initial October order striking down a council map passed in March 2022. Instead, the city said it would focus on fighting her December order, trying to uphold the City Council’s “Maroon” map passed last month.

While past legal decisions were made at private “shade” meetings between city lawyers and City Council members, city lawyers decided to drop the appeal after individually calling council members, according to three council members.

Councilman Sam Newby, who was council president when the March map passed and who has defended that map, said like other council members, city lawyers had called him to ask his opinion. While he said he still supports the March map that the court struck down, he had no problem with the city’s decision to drop the appeal. “It wouldn’t be smart to defend both maps, so we decided to go with the Maroon map.”

The case is still expected to go to trial with plaintiffs arguing the March map violated the U.S. Constitution by racially gerrymandering. Plaintiffs have also argued the map violated the city’s charter requirement for compact districts.

The March 21 elections, when all 19 City Council seats are up for election, will continue under the court-ordered map. The deadline to file for the election and qualify is this Friday.

The City Council is expected to approve new precinct lines tonight.

Andrew Pantazi edits and reports for The Tributary. He previously worked as a reporter at The Florida Times-Union where he helped organize the newsroom's union with the NewsGuild-CWA. He is a Jacksonville...