On Wednesday the Supreme Court released three opinions, two of which made news, one of which – Harris v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission – I sketched. I would’ve sketched the opinion in Bank Markazi v Peterson, that upheld a law directing Iranian assets to go to victims of terrorism, except I really couldn’t see much of Justice Ginsburg’s tiny figure hunched behind the bench as she delivered the opinion.
Sketches of the argument in Birchfield v. North Dakota, actually three cases concerning state laws that make it a crime to refuse a warrantless blood-alcohol test when stopped for DUI, are below.
After the 2010 census Alabama redrew its voting map with the result that some districts became more white/Republican and others more black/Democratic. Two groups, the Alabama Legislative Black Caucus and the Alabama Democratic Conference challenged the state’s redistricting plan saying that the plan “packed” predominantly African American districts on the basis of race.
It’s a complicated and unusual case where the sides historically arguing racial quotas have switched. Rather than attempt to explain the argument, I’ll just post my pictures and refer the reader to Richard Hansen’s analysis on SCOTUSblog.
” . . the so-called “crab claws” that the parties describe that extend out from the district capture African American populations.” -Solicitor General Verrilli
A 5-4 divided Court today struck down a key section of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, effectively putting the burden on victims of voter descrimination to seek relief. Chief Justice Roberts wrote for a majority that included Justices Thomas, Scalia, Kennedy and Alito.In a dissenting opinion joined by Justices Sotomayor, Breyer and Kagan, Justice Ginsburg wrote, “Hubris is a fit word for today’s demolition of the Voting Rights Act”.
Lyle Denniston’s take on the opinion is here.
Notables of the civil rights movement sat in the audience as the Supreme Court yesterday heard arguments in a major challenge to the Voting Rights Act, Shelby County v. Holder.
From 1965 when President Johnson signed it into law to the election of the first African-American president, the Voting Rights Act has been the most important and successful civil rights law ever passed. So successful that a slim majority of the Court seem to think that its most important part, Section 5, is so outdated it’s no longer constitutional.
Justice Scalia,below, to Solicitor General Verrilli on why the were no votes against the 2006 reauthorization in the Senate, “I think that’s attributable to a phenomenon that has been called the perpetuation of racial entitlements.”
Bob Barnes has WaPo story here.
As a result of a large growth in population Texas has gained a number of Congressional and State Legislative seats.
When it came time to draw up new electoral maps the Texas Legislature, which is controlled by Republicans, not surprisingly came up with a map favoring Republican candidates.
Also not surprisingly the Legislatures’ maps were challenged in a federal court in San Antonio under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
Meanwhile, Texas is one of those States that fall under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act and are required to get pre-clearance from either the Department of Justice or a special three-judge court in DC. The Texas Republicans chose to go to the three-judge court for approval, but the court has yet to act.
So, with primaries looming the San Antonio court drew up its own set of electoral maps that strengthen the Hispanic vote, and presumably help Democrats.
Texas appealed to the Supreme Court to block the court drawn map, and the Justices today heard arguments in the case.
Mike Sacks’ take on the arguments is here.