On February 3, 2016, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, along with co-counsel Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP, filed an amicus curiae brief in the United States Supreme Court in the case of Wittman v. Personhuballah. The case involves Virginia’s Third Congressional District, which the Virginia State Legislature drew in the wake of the 2010 census. Previously, the District Court of Virginia found that, in violation of the constitution, racial considerations were the Legislature’s predominant concerns in drawing the district. The Lawyers’ Committee’s brief, filed in support of Appellees, argues that the congressional district was the product of racial gerrymandering and violated Shaw v. Reno, 509 U.S. 630 (1990). The brief asks the Court to affirm the District Court’s decision.
Specifically, the Lawyers’ Committee’s brief advocates for the Court to employ a straight forward application of the legal framework set forth in earlier redistricting cases, including Miller v. Johnson, 515 U.S. 900 (1995) and Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama, 135 S. Ct. 1257 (2015). Straying from this framework, the brief argues, risks undermining the Court’s own carefully constructed guidelines and exposing legitimate majority-minority districts to undue scrutiny. To read the Lawyers’ Committee’s amicus brief, please click here. To read about the Lawyers’ Committee’s amicus brief filed in the case of Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama, click here.
“In our democracy, it is important that all communities enjoy fair representation in our redistricting process. We expect legislators to draw redistricting plans that address the underrepresentation of racial minorities, but in this case, the District Court was right to find this particular district unconstitutional. We ask the Supreme Court to affirm that decision,” stated Lawyers’ Committee President and Executive Director Kristen Clarke.
“In places like Virginia where most people vote along racial lines, it is important for legislators to draw redistricting plans that enable minority voters to have an equal opportunity to elect their candidates of choice,” stated Jon Greenbaum, chief counsel for the Lawyers’ Committee. “But the Virginia legislators went too far here in packing African American voters into an oddly-shaped district when there was no compelling need to do so.”
On May 23, 2016, the Court issued its opinion, holding that the defendant-intervenors lacked standing, and, therefore, dismissing the appeal for lack of jurisdiction. The Court did not reach the redistricting issues, and, therefore, the favorable district court opinion stands.