Willamette Law Online

United States Supreme Court Certiorari Granted


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Shelby County, Ala. v. Holder

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: November 9, 2012
Case #: 12-96
Court Below: Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, 679 F.3d 848 (2012).
Full Text Opinion: http://www.cadc.uscourts.gov/internet/opinions.nsf/D79C82694E572B4D85257A02004EC903/$file/11-5256-1374370.pdf

Constitutional Law: "Whether Congress' decision in 2006 to reauthorize Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act under the pre-existing coverage formula of Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act exceeded its authority under the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments and thus violated the Tenth Amendment and Article IV of the United States Constitution."

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 sections 5—which requires federal preclearance 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 seeking an injunction against Respondent enforcing them.

The district court held that section 5’s preclearance 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 the decision and the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit affirmed.

The Supreme Court granted certiorari limited to the question of “whether Congress’ decision in 2006 to reauthorize Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act under the pre-existing coverage formula of Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act exceeded its authority under the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments and thus violated the Tenth Amendment and Article IV of the United States Constitution.”