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Supreme Court Preview: Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder

February 21, 2013

Of counsel Sidney Rosdeitcher and associate James Beha published a preview of the upcoming Supreme Court argument Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder. The case challenges the constitutionality of Voting Rights Act provisions requiring "covered" jurisdictions, primarily located in states of the old Confederacy, to obtain preclearance from the Justice Department or a three-judge court in Washington, before implementing any change in voting practices.

Originally enacted in 1965 under Congress's power to enforce the Fifteenth Amendment, re-enacted several times thereafter, and repeatedly upheld by the Court, these provisions have been credited with the enormous strides in enfranchising black and other minority citizens in these states. In 2006, Congress, by overwhelming bipartisan vote, found that, despite these improvements, extensive evidence of continuing racially discriminatory voting practices concentrated in those states justified reauthorization of these provisions for another 25 years. A 2009 Supreme Court decision, however, suggested, in dicta, that serious constitutional questions may be raised as to whether that evidence justifies the continued intrusion into state sovereignty these provisions entail. Shelby County now directly raises those constitutional questions.

The analysis, "Supreme Court Preview: Constitutionality of the Preclearance and Coverage Provisions of the Voting Rights Act Reauthorization of 2006," appeared on the Brennan Center for Justice website on February 15 and was noted by SCOTUSblog. Sidney is also a co-author of the Brennan Center's amicus brief that urges the Supreme Court to uphold the provisions.

The case will be argued on February 27.

» Read the brief

» Read the preview

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