Did the 4th Circuit Wrongly Decide Raleigh Wake Citizens Association?
If you have no legal experience… perfect! This is a great “getting your feet wet” case for reading legal decisions! This post series will analyze the recent ruling by the 4th Circuit section by section, while referencing the dissent as well as the majority opinion. For those who are not experienced reading a legal decision:
-I have prefaced my analysis with a brief explanation of each section of the decision and why it’s important
-I have opted to use simple page numbers as citations, rather than proper legal format
-I have tried to keep the legal jargon to a minimum.
-And, where possible, you’ll see bulleted lists like this one.-For this post series, I’ll also critique the majority opinion as necessary
Part III-A: Precedents
-Sees lack “‘of honest and good faith effort’ to construct districts as close to equal population ‘as is practicable.’” (p.11)
-Believes plaintiffs have met ‘more probable than not’ standard to show that apportionment factors were illegitimate, thus negating presumptive constitutionality of new districts
-Case Citation: Harris v. Ariz. Indep. Redistricting Comm’n – cites ‘legitimate’ redistricting factors
-Case Citation: Larios v Cox – cites ‘illegitimate’ redistricting factors
-Has questions about whether the issue is justiciable (i.e. legal issue, or legislative issue?)
-Does not believe plaintiffs have shown redistricting factors to be illegitimate
-Case Citation: Harris – introduced here, but used later as precedent that districts with less than 10% Maximum Population Deviation are presumptively constitutional.
-For the Majority, the Harris court ruled that the population variance was due to an effort to comply with the Voting Rights Act (‘legitimate factors’) instead of the product of illegitimate factors. (p.12)
-For the Dissent, Harris stands for the proposition that challenges to districts with less than a 10% Maximum Population Deviation “will only succeed rare, in unusual cases,” and partisanship in redistricting is not sufficiently unusual to warrant disturbing the decision of the district court. (p.45)
-I have reservations about the use of Larios v Cox in the majority opinion – see McLuckie’s Position in Part III-C.
Part III-B1: Standard of Review (District Court)
-Cites Harris, establishing standard where plaintiffs must prove ‘more probable than not’ that illegitimate factors influenced redistricting in districts with 10% Maximum Population Deviation. (p.14)
-Agrees with ‘more probable than not’ standard. Disagrees that (1) Factors used by legislature are illegitimate, and (2) if so, that plaintiffs have proved that those factors ‘more probably than not’ influenced redistricting. (p.50)
-I side with the Dissent on this:
“Plaintiffs take no notice of the holding in Harris that, even if abusive partisanship did constitute an illegitimate factor, those challenging the redistricting plan had not carried their burden. This holding is particularly significant given that the Harris plaintiffs had made a much stronger evidentiary showing than Plaintiffs do here.” (p.50)
Part III-B2: Legal Elements
-“The focus. . . [is] whether ‘deviations of less than 10% reflect[ed] the predominance of illegitimate reapportionment factors.” (p.16)
Part III-B3: Weight and Value of Evidence
-Objects to the district court categorically giving no weight to testimony of persons opposed to 2013 redistricting plan (p.18)
-Objects to district court rejecting testimony of expert witness:
-Witness uses a computer simulation to generate random redistricting plans using 4 traditional criteria: Population equality; keeping municipalities intact; keeping precincts whole; and geographic compactness. (p.19)
-Witness concluded with certainty from simulations that deviations were result of partisan apportionment (p.20)
-Maintains that statistical criteria are meant to be demonstrative of reasons for population deviation, not minimum standard required at law (p.20)
-Agrees with majority that district court erred in according no weight to testimony of redistricting opponents, but finds lay witness testimony to be of little value (p.58)
-Agrees with district court that expert testimony is flawed:
-Notes that there are other “legitimate considerations” in justifying a state apportionment plan: maintaining competitive balance between political parties; avoiding contests between incumbents; and recognizing communities of interest. (p.47-48)
-Maintains that expert model is flawed by being more strict than legally necessary: Maximum Population Deviations less than 10% “do not ‘substantially dilute the weight of individual notes in larger districts[. . .]’” (p.53) and are presumptively constitutional.
-Points out that expert model is flawed by failing to account for ‘legitimate considerations’ (“Undisputed” record that avoiding incumbent contests and recognizing communities of interest motivated the legislature. P.54)
Part III-B4: Majority Asserts District Court Error
-You can guess what this Part of the ruling says.