University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Shelby County v. Holder VR-DC-1169
Docket / Court 10-0651 ( D.D.C. )
State/Territory District of Columbia
Case Type(s) Election/Voting Rights
Attorney Organization U.S. Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division
Case Summary
On April 27, 2010, Shelby County, Alabama, filed this lawsuit in the District Court of the District of Columbia, challenging the Voting Rights Act's preclearance provision, Section 5. The county sought declaratory and injunctive relief, arguing that the Voting Rights Act was unconstitutional in ... read more >
On April 27, 2010, Shelby County, Alabama, filed this lawsuit in the District Court of the District of Columbia, challenging the Voting Rights Act's preclearance provision, Section 5. The county sought declaratory and injunctive relief, arguing that the Voting Rights Act was unconstitutional in declaring Shelby County a "covered" jurisdiction and requiring that it obtain approval from the Department of Justice prior to implementing any voting changes.

Following a decision in the discovery stage that the U.S. could not conduct additional discovery regarding issues of standing and bailout, 270 F.R.D. 16 (D.D.C. 2010), the District Court (Judge Bates) granted the Justice Department's motion for summary judgment. The issue was whether the Act's preclearance requirement constituted a "congruent and proportional" response to a real threat by states to Equal Protection and rights under the 15th Amendment. In September 2011, the District Court held that the Act was constitutional. 811 F.Supp.2d 242. On appeal, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals likewise held that the preclearance provisions of the Voting Rights Act fell within Congress' authority under the 15th Amendment and that the disparate effect on different jurisdictions was sufficiently related to the targeted problem of voting discrimination to survive judicial review. 679 F.3d 848.

The Supreme Court granted certiorari, 133 S.Ct. 594, and on June 25, 2013, reversed. In a 5-4 opinion written by Chief Justice Roberts, the Court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, which provided the formula for which states and other jurisdictions needed preclearance, was unconstitutional. Shelby County v. Holder, 570 U.S. ____ (2013). The Court held that Section 4, while appropriate at the time it was passed, no longer provided an accurate list of jurisdictions that discriminated against minority voters. The formula at the time of the Act's passage, named as "covered" jurisdictions those States or political subdivisions that had maintained a test or device (like literacy and knowledge tests, good moral character requirements, etc.) as a prerequisite to voting as of November 1, 1964, and had less than 50 percent voter registration or turnout in the 1964 Presidential election. Subsequently, the trigger election was changed to 1972. The Court concluded Section 4 impermissibly violated the "equal sovereignty" of the states. The Court did not express its views on the constitutionality of Section 5, under a different coverage formula. Justice Ginsburg dissented (joined by three others), and Justice Thomas concurred to express his view that Section 5 was unconstitutional.

Without a coverage formula, the Act's preclearance regime is not operative. It remains technically possible for the Congress to pass a new coverage formula.

Jonathan Forman - 06/25/2013


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Plaintiff Type
City/County Plaintiff
Voting
Election administration
Causes of Action Voting Rights Act, section 5, 42 U.S.C. § 1973c
Defendant(s) United States
Plaintiff Description Shelby County, Alabama
Indexed Lawyer Organizations U.S. Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Declaratory Judgment
Source of Relief Litigation
Form of Settlement None on record
Order Duration not on record
Case Closing Year n/a
Case Ongoing No
Docket(s)
1:10-cv-651 (D.D.C.) 07/12/2012
VR-DC-1169-9000.pdf | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief 04/27/2010
VR-DC-1169-0001.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion and Order (Denying Government's Request for Discovery Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure) 09/16/2010 (270 F.R.D. 16) (D.D.C.)
VR-DC-1169-0006.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
Memorandum Opinion (Denying Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment, Granting Defendants' Motions for Summary Judgment) 09/21/2011 (811 F.Supp.2d 242) (D.D.C.)
VR-DC-1169-0002.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Notice of Appeal 09/23/2011
VR-DC-1169-0003.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion (Regarding the Constitutionality of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act) 05/18/2012 (679 F.3d 848)
VR-DC-1169-0004.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
[Cert grant] 11/09/2012 (133 S.Ct. 594)
VR-DC-1169-0005.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
Brief for Petitioner 12/26/2012
VR-DC-1169-0008.pdf | Detail
Document Source: ABA Supreme Court Briefs
Brief for Federal Respondent 12/26/2012
VR-DC-1169-0009.pdf | Detail
Document Source: ABA Supreme Court Briefs
Brief of Arizona, Georgia, South Carolina, and South Dakota as Amici Curiae in Support of Petitioner 02/01/2013
VR-DC-1169-0010.pdf | Detail
Document Source: ABA Supreme Court Briefs
Brief of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the Leadership Conference Education Fund et al. as Amici Curiae in Support of Respondents 02/01/2013
VR-DC-1169-0011.pdf | Detail
Document Source: ABA Supreme Court Briefs
Opinions [on the merits] 06/25/2013 (509 U.S. 259)
VR-DC-1169-0012.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Supreme Court website
Judges Bates, John D. (FISC, D.D.C., D.C. Circuit)
VR-DC-1169-0002 | VR-DC-1169-0006 | VR-DC-1169-9000
Ginsburg, Ruth Bader (SCOTUS, D.C. Circuit)
VR-DC-1169-0012
Roberts, John Glover Jr. (D.C. Circuit, SCOTUS)
VR-DC-1169-0012
Thomas, Clarence (D.C. Circuit, SCOTUS)
VR-DC-1169-0012
Williams, Stephen Fain (D.C. Circuit)
VR-DC-1169-0004
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Consovoy, William S. (District of Columbia)
VR-DC-1169-0003 | VR-DC-1169-0008 | VR-DC-1169-9000
Ellis, Frank C. Jr. (Alabama)
VR-DC-1169-0001 | VR-DC-1169-0008
McCarthy, Thomas R. (District of Columbia)
VR-DC-1169-0008 | VR-DC-1169-9000
Morrissey, Brendan J. (District of Columbia)
VR-DC-1169-0008 | VR-DC-1169-9000
Rein, Bert W. (District of Columbia)
VR-DC-1169-0001 | VR-DC-1169-0008 | VR-DC-1169-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Abudu, Nancy G. (Georgia)
VR-DC-1169-9000
Adegbile, Debo Patrick (New York)
VR-DC-1169-9000
Bagenstos, Samuel R. (District of Columbia)
VR-DC-1169-9000
Bell-Platts, Meredith E.B. (District of Columbia)
VR-DC-1169-9000
Clarke, Kristen M. (District of Columbia)
VR-DC-1169-9000
Cooper, David (New York)
VR-DC-1169-9000
Dellheim, Richard A. (District of Columbia)
VR-DC-1169-9000
Flynn, Diana K. (District of Columbia)
VR-DC-1169-0009
Flynn, Erin H. (District of Columbia)
VR-DC-1169-0009
Greenbaum, Jon M. (District of Columbia)
VR-DC-1169-9000
Harrington, Sarah E. (District of Columbia)
VR-DC-1169-0009
Haygood, Ryan Paul (New York)
VR-DC-1169-9000
Ho, Dale E. (New York)
VR-DC-1169-9000
Katz, Autumn C. (New York)
VR-DC-1169-9000
McDonald, Laughlin (Georgia)
VR-DC-1169-9000
McFarland, Ernest Alan (District of Columbia)
VR-DC-1169-9000
Nonna, John M. (New York)
VR-DC-1169-9000
Payton, John (New York)
VR-DC-1169-9000
Perez, Thomas E. (District of Columbia)
VR-DC-1169-0009
Posner, Mark A. (District of Columbia)
VR-DC-1169-9000
Slade, Jared Michael (District of Columbia)
VR-DC-1169-9000
Spital, Samuel (New York)
VR-DC-1169-9000
Spitzer, Arthur (District of Columbia)
VR-DC-1169-9000
Srinivasan, Srikanth (District of Columbia)
VR-DC-1169-0009
Stabile, Daniel T. (New York)
VR-DC-1169-9000
Verrilli, Donald B. Jr. (District of Columbia)
VR-DC-1169-0009
Weinstein-Tull, Justin S. (District of Columbia)
VR-DC-1169-9000
Other Lawyers Bornstein, Lisa M. (District of Columbia)
VR-DC-1169-0011
Capone, Ella A. (District of Columbia)
VR-DC-1169-0011
Cole, David Robert (Arizona)
VR-DC-1169-0010
Forney, Michele L. (Arizona)
VR-DC-1169-0010
Hoffman, Matthew M. (District of Columbia)
VR-DC-1169-0011
Horne, Thomas C. (Arizona)
VR-DC-1169-0010
Jackley, Marty J. (South Dakota)
VR-DC-1169-0010
Kalicheti, Sirisha V. (District of Columbia)
VR-DC-1169-0011
Olens, Samuel (Georgia)
VR-DC-1169-0010
Pollak, Stephen J. (District of Columbia)
VR-DC-1169-0011
Wilson, Alan (South Carolina)
VR-DC-1169-0010

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