a luta continua
Alabama Racial Gerrymandering Lawsuit Filed Nov15 2021 https://www.naacpldf.org/press-release/groups-launch-legal-challenges-over-alabama-racial-gerrymandering/
Alabama Racial Gerrymandering Lawsuit Preliminary Injunction Issued Jan24 2022 https://www.naacpldf.org/press-release/federal-court-blocks-alabamas-new-congressional-map-orders-lawmakers-to-draw-map-with-two-majority-black-districts/
Alabama Racial Gerrymandering Lawsuit … to SCOTUS Jan 25 2022
Alabama attorney general appeals ruling blocking congressional map https://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com/story/news/2022/01/26/alabama-attorney-general-appeals-ruling-blocking-congressional-map/9224180002/
Alabama Racial Gerrymandering Lawsuit … SCOTUS Temp Stay Feb
On Oct. 4, 2022, Legal Defense Fund (LDF) Senior Counsel Deuel Ross presented oral argument in the redistricting case Merrill v. Milligan, the organization’s first case before the United States Supreme Court in six years. LDF has a long history of arguing before the Supreme Court. Our founder, Thurgood Marshall, argued 32 cases before the nation’s highest court, and won 29 of them. Former LDF litigator and the nation’s first Black woman to serve as a federal judge, Constance Baker Motley, won nine of the 10 cases she argued. With LDF back before the Court in Merrill v. Milligan, we take a closer look at the case’s details and potential ramifications, as well as provide on-the-ground insights as to how the LDF team’s day unfolded.
Redistricting in Alabama and Merrill v. Milligan
Merrill v. Milligan (known as Milligan v. Merrill in lower courts) involves a claim brought by Black voters challenging Alabama’s congressional map drawn in 2021 for violating Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) of 1965, which prohibits racially discriminatory voting practices and procedures. The claim argues that Alabama officials “packed and cracked” Black communities into legislative districts in a manner that severely dilutes their political power, preventing Black voters from electing candidates of their choice who represent their interests. This is illustrated by the fact that Black people make up nearly 27% of the state’s population, but control only one out of the state’s seven congressional districts (14%).
Elias Law Group Partner Abha Khanna, LDF Senior Counsel Deuel Ross, plaintiff and Alabama NAACP President Bernard Simelton, and LDF President and Director-Counsel Janai Nelson at a press conference following oral arguments. (photo by Allison Shelley for LDF)
Attendees at a rally prior to oral arguments in Merrill v. Milligan.(photo by Allison Shelley for LDF)
LDF has long been involved in advocating for voting rights in Alabama during the redistricting process and beyond. In fact, during the most recent redistricting cycle, LDF became involved early on to try to ensure that the state’s maps would accurately represent Alabama’s growing Black community. While Alabama has a concerning history of voter suppression, including in the development of previous iterations of congressional and state legislative maps, LDF was hopeful that state officials would finally heed their constituents’ demands for proper representation.
However, rather than draw a fair congressional map, the legislature chose to split Alabama’s Black Belt among multiple districts — and then pack the remaining Black voters into one district. Shortly after the map was signed by Governor Kay Ivey, LDF sued the state on behalf of several individual voters, the Alabama Conference of the NAACP, and Greater Birmingham Ministries, arguing that the map violated Section 2 of the VRA by diluting Black voting strength. In January 2022, a federal court made up of three judges – including two appointed by President Donald Trump – unanimously ruled that Alabama’s congressional map likely caused irreparable harm to Black voters in the state and ordered lawmakers to draw a new map that complied with the VRA. Instead, Alabama appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, which stayed LDF’s win that mandated the redrawing of the state’s map until it issues an opinion.
The ramifications of the Court’s forthcoming decision will be felt beyond Alabama. In addition to determining whether the state must redraw its congressional map, the court is also examining the role of race in redistricting nationwide — an especially critical notion since the consideration of race has long been important in order to remedy discriminatory maps in line with the VRA. Therefore, the outcome of Merrill v. Milligan will have long-lasting implications at every level of government throughout the country.
LDF Senior Counsel Deuel Ross and plaintiff Letetia Jackson before oral arguments. (photo by Keecee Devenny for LDF)
LDF Senior Counsel Deuel Ross speaks with press in front of the Supreme Court after oral arguments. (photo by Allison Shelley for LDF)
IN THE COURTROOM
Arguments on Display
The gravity of these implications has always been top of mind for LDF — and that was evident on the day of oral arguments. The morning started early, as litigators were already waiting in line at the court by 6 a.m. and the public audience queue was at least 50 strong. There was an urgency, excitement, and profound sense of duty in the air among LDF staff, who were there to support their colleague as he made his debut at the Court – and, even more importantly, to back Black Alabamians in their fight for fair representation and the VRA’s preservation.
When Ross arrived, he greeted his family and colleagues. Everyone embraced and shared words of encouragement before heading into the courthouse. Arguments commenced at 10 a.m. Alabama’s lawyer, the state’s Solicitor General Edmund LaCour, presented first and faced about an hour of subsequent questioning from the justices. Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, the most recent addition to the bench and the first Black woman to serve as a Supreme Court justice, was persistent in questioning LaCour’s contradictory arguments suggesting that Alabama’s initial map was race-neutral and that redrawing it to ensure that it was no longer racially discriminatory would violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Justice Jackson employed originalism – a constitutional interpretation typically favored by conservative justices – to explain the purpose of the Fourteenth Amendment: to encourage race consciousness in remedying systemic racism following the abolition of slavery.
“There is nothing race neutral about Alabama’s map. The district court’s unanimous and thorough intensely local analysis did not err in finding that the Black Belt is a historic and extremely poor community of substantial significance. Yet, Alabama’s map cracks that community and allows white bloc voting to deny Black voters the opportunity to elect representation responsive to their needs.”
DEUEL ROSS, LDF Senior Counsel
Merrill v. Milligan: LDF’s Work to Safeguard the VRA and Black Political Power Legal Defense Fund https://www.naacpldf.org/merrill-v-milligan-supreme-court/
wed feb 15 2023 7a cSt mgy REmbr … G is, as G can only BE. GOOD