May 22, 2017

The US Supreme Court agreed with arguments in a firm amicus brief in a breakthrough decision holding that two congressional districts in North Carolina were racially gerrymandered.   At issue in Cooper, Governor of North Carolina, et al. v. Harris et. al. was the redrawing of districts by Republican officials after the 2010 census.  The firm’s brief argued that the Court should reject the appellees’ claims that the redrawn districts were valid and instead “use this case as an opportunity to clarify this Court’s jurisprudence on the intersection of race and politics in redistricting.”  The firm wrote the amicus brief on a pro bono basis for several voting rights organizations, including the Campaign Legal Center, League of Women Voters, Voting Rights Institute and others.

On May 22, 2017, the court ruled 5-3, concluding that North Carolina violated the Equal Protections Clause of the 14th Amendment by separating voters to add more minorities into District 1 and District 12 without justification.  Districts 1 and 12 are two of North Carolina’s most notorious congressional districts, having been gerrymandered and brought before the Court in the 1996 Shaw v. Hunt case as well.

Justice Elena Kagan delivered the majority opinion; she was joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer.  Over the dissent of Justice Alito, the majority adopted the position in the firm’s amicus brief that the plaintiffs were not required to offer an alternative map and that the legislature cannot use race as a proxy for political affiliation.  

Partner Jessica Ring Amunson prepared the brief with assistance from Legal Secretary Sheree Anyiam, Docket Assistant Tyler Edwards and Senior Paralegal Cheryl Olson