Justia U.S. D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Election Law

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Shelby County contended that when Congress reauthorized section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, 42 U.S.C. 1973c(a), in 2006, it exceeded its enumerated powers. The district court disagreed and granted summary judgment for the Attorney General. Applying the congruence and proportionality standard of review in Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District No. One v. Holder, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Shelby County, AL v. Holder, et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs brought suit challenging the constitutionality of section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), 42 U.S.C. 1973c, arguing that, as amended by the VRA's 2006 reauthorization, section 5 exceeded the powers granted to Congress by the Reconstruction Amendments and violated the Fifth Amendment's equal protection guarantee. The district court initially dismissed the suit for lack of standing but the court reversed and remanded based on the standing of plaintiff John Nix, who had announced his intention to run for the Kinston City Council in the 2011 elections. On remand, the district court granted summary judgment for the government, holding that section 5 was constitutional. While the appeal was pending before the court, and before oral argument could take place, the Justice Department changed its mind in light of some new evidence that it received in a separate proceeding. The Department subsequently informed the court and the parties that the Attorney General was withdrawing his objection to the proposed change. Three days later, the government filed its merits brief arguing in part that the case had been mooted by the Attorney General's actions. After considering the supplemental briefing from both parties, the court agreed with the government and therefore vacated the judgment and remanded the case to the district court with instructions to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction. View "Laroque, et al. v. Holder, et al." on Justia Law

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The citizens of Kinston, North Carolina, approved a referendum switching city elections from partisan to nonpartisan. Because Kinston was located in a jurisdiction covered by section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (Act), 42 U.S.C. 1973(c)(a), the city council had no authority to implement the referendum until precleared by federal authorities, and preclearance had not occurred. A candidate for public office claiming a state-law entitlement to run under the suspended nonpartisan system, together with other plaintiffs, filed suit seeking to enjoin the Attorney General from enforcing section 5 against Kinston. Count one of plaintiffs' complaint contended that section 5, as reauthorized in 2006, exceeded Congress' Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendment enforcement powers. Count two contended that amendments made to section 5 in 2006 erected a facially unconstitutional racial-preference scheme. The court held that one of the plaintiffs, the candidate for public office, had both standing and a cause of action to pursue count one and therefore, the court reversed and remanded for the district court to consider the merits of that claim. The court held that, because plaintiffs' standing with respect to count two raised complex questions unaddressed by the district court and the parties' briefs, the court vacated the district court's dismissal of that claim and remanded for further consideration.