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Edward Still and other voting rights attorneys file amicus brief in U.S. Supreme Court

A group of veteran voting-rights attorneys lead by Julius Chambers, former director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, has filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court in Northwest Austin Municipal Unitily District v. Holder. The attorneys argue:

In comparison to Appellant’s limited familiarity with elections, attorney amici collectively have more than 200 years of experience litigating voting rights cases in covered and non-covered jurisdictions throughout the country. This experience has led amici to recognize the persistent need for timely enforcement capable of deterring illegal voting schemes before they are implemented—a task for which caseby- case litigation under Section 2 is ill-suited, but for which Section 5 was designed.

Were Section 5 unavailable, there would be a significant increase in the number of discriminatory voting changes that voters and jurisdictions would be forced to address through litigation. But Section 2 cannot substitute for the prophylactic function of Section 5. In practice, amici have seen Section 2 and Section 5 operate in the complementary fashion that Congress intended. Where minority voters in covered jurisdictions cannot find a lawyer or afford to pay one, Section 5 provides the means to redress new violations of their rights. And where minority voters are able to get their day in court, Section 5 provides the assurance that their hard-won and expensive battles will not have been fought in vain if a jurisdiction repeats similar violations.

Too many discriminatory voting changes would remain unchallenged if Section 5 were invalidated. For individual minority voters, the cost and effort required to pursue Section 2 cases are great barriers to private enforcement, a problem made more acute by the small number of practitioners in covered jurisdictions who are willing and able to take such cases. This creates a perverse incentive—all too often realized—for officials to continue suspect practices because they know most voters cannot challenge them. In contrast, Section 5 serves as a deterrent to such practices.

Amici’s lengthy experience in the voting rights arena shows the importance of Congress’s considered decision to reauthorize Section 5. Without it, minority voters will fail to realize the full promise of the Voting Rights Act.

The amici include the following lawyers:James U. Blacksher, Armand Derfner, Anita Earls, Robert McDuff, Edward Still, and Ellis Turnage. The lawyers are represented by William D. Kissinger, Sujal J. Shah, Erin Shannon-Conroy, Perry M. Grossman, and Sarah L. Bishop of Bibgham McCutchen LLP.

This entry was posted by Edward at 8:53 PM, 25 March 2009 | Categories: Voting Rights Act

The picture above was made in 1914 by the Birmingham Engraving Co. This reproduction is from the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA.

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