On March 25, 2015 the Supreme Court decided Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama, which was consolidated with Alabama Democratic Conference v. Alabama.
These cases ask whether Alabama's 2012 legislative redistricting plans classify black voters by race in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. A three-judge federal district court rejected plaintiffs’ challenge to the redistricting plan. By a vote of 5-4, the Supreme Court vacated that decision and remanded the case for further proceedings.
In an opinion delivered by Justice Breyer, the Court determined that the district court made four key errors: (1) treating the racial gerrymandering claim as referring to the State “as a whole,” rather than district-by-district; (2) finding that the Alabama Democratic Conference lacked standing.; (3) improperly calculating “predominance” in the alternative holding that “[r]ace was not the predominant motivating factor” in the creation of any of the challenged districts; and (4) concluding that “the [challenged] Districts would satisfy strict scrutiny.”
Justice Breyer's opinion for the Court was joined by Justices Kennedy, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan. Justice Scalia filed a dissent, which was joined by the Chief Justice and Justices Thomas and Alito. Justice Thomas also filed a separate dissent.
To discuss the case, we have Stephen Davis, who is an associate at the Washington, D.C. office of Arent Fox.