Dismissal was erroneous
Washington D.C.— The Center for Individual Rights will seek Supreme Court review of today’s decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals dismissing LaRoque v. Holder, its case challenging Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.
Earlier today, a three-judge panel ruled that LaRoque must be dismissed as moot as a result of a February 2012 decision by the Attorney General, which purported to withdraw the government’s objection to the nonpartisan voting system that gave rise to the case. According to the panel, LaRoque, Nix and the other plaintiffs “have ‘obtained everything that [they] could recover’ from this lawsuit, and…the case is thus moot.”
Today’s decision overlooks the central issue raised by LaRoque and other plaintiffs, which was not the Attorney General’s specific decision to deny preclearance for Kinston’s 2008 decision to implement nonpartisan voting, but rather the ongoing harm the citizens of Kinston will suffer every time the Attorney General exercises his authority to preclear any and all voting changes in Kinston and Lenoir County. The plaintiffs are challenging the constitutionality of the preclearance procedure itself, not the Attorney General’s specific decision in one in-stance.
Under Section 5, the Attorney General can only preclear election law changes if they maximize the ability of minority voters to elect their candidate of choice. The Attorney General at first determined that nonpartisan voting would disadvantage black candidates in Kinston because it would deprive them of the Democratic Party label.
Under well settled doctrine, the Attorney General cannot evade judicial review of his actions by reversing a single instance while leaving in place laws and procedures that are likely to cause a repetition of the same, unconstitutional harm. He must show that it is “absolutely clear” that his unconstitutional conduct could not “reasonably” be expected to be repeated in the future.
Lead counsel Michael Carvin commented, “Today’s decision ignores well settled law and leaves in place the ongoing unconstitutional ‘minority maximization’ agenda of Section 5. We will seek Supreme Court review of today’s erroneous dismissal as well as review of the continued unconstitutional use of Section 5 to divide voters by race.”