Willamette Law Online

United States Supreme Court


Shelby County v. Holder

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: June 25, 2013
Case #: 12-96
Roberts, C. J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito, JJ., joined. Thomas, J., filed a concurring opinion. Ginsberg, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan, JJ., joined.
Full Text Opinion: http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/12pdf/12-96_6k47.pdf

Constitutional Law: Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. ยง 1973 et seq., is unconstitutional and its formula can no longer be used for subjecting jurisdictions to pre-clearance.

In 2006, Congress reauthorized the Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1973 et seq., and extended its provisions for 25 years. The extension included section 5--which requires federal pre-clearance of changes to voting laws in covered jurisdictions; and 4(b)--which sets out the formula for determining covered jurisdictions. In Northwest Austin Mun. Utility Dist. No. One v. Holder, the Supreme Court stated that sections 5 and 4(b) raised "serious constitutional questions." Petitioner filed a lawsuit challenging sections 5 and 4(b)'s constitutionality and sought an injunction against Respondent from enforcing them.

The district court held that section 5's pre-clearance requirement was a "congruent and proportional remedy" to the problem of voter discrimination, and that section 4(b)'s formula was justified in light of recent evidence of voter discrimination. Petitioner appealed and the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit affirmed.

The Supreme Court reversed and held that section 4 of the voting rights act is unconstitutional.  Section 4's formula can no longer be used for subjecting jurisdictions to pre-clearance.