Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Did the 4th Circuit Decide Wrongly in This Case? (Part III-D, Part IV, Part V, & Concluding Notes and Your Opinions)

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. For those who are not experienced reading a legal decision:

-I have tried to keep the legal jargon to a minimum.
-Where possible, you’ll see bulleted lists like this one. 
-For this post series, I’ll also critique the majority opinion as necessary

Most of this section is the Federal Court of Appeals for the 4th Judicial Circuit affirming the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina.

Part III-D: State-level “One Person, One Vote” Claim
Majority: “For the same reasons that Plaintiffs succeed with their federal claim, so, too, do they succeed with their North Carolina state one person, one vote claim” (p.39)

Part IV & IV-A: “No clear error” in Rejection of Racial Gerrymandering claim / Elements
-Showing would require proof that redistricting took place with racial consideration, rather than for race-neutral reasons such as “compactness, contiguity, and respect for political subdivisions or communities defined by shared interest.”

Part IV-B: District Court affirmed
-District court’s conclusion that District 4 was not a product of racial gerrymandering was plausible:
(1) given “that at-large electoral systems submerge the views of various minorities…” (p.42) and
(2) “In a racial gerrymandering context, partisan advantage may be considered a traditional redistricting criterion, and evidence that politics was the primary motivation for drawing a district can defeat the allegation that race predominated.” (p.43) (emphasis mine)

McLuckie’s Opinion:
- Such is the nature of the legal profession. The 4th Circuit had the authority to overturn redistricting for partisan, but not racial, reasons.

Of course, it is (for now) settled law that: (1) partisan advantage – even in presumptively constitutional statistical settings – is “unusual” enough to warrant overturning the district court, but (2) when discussing racial gerrymandering, geographic partisan advantage may defeat allegations of racism.

Part V: Judgment
-Judgment in favor of the Plaintiffs
-“We see no reason why the November 2016 elections should proceed under the unconstitutional plans we strike down today.” (p. 44, footnote 13)

Concluding Notes and Your Opinions:
Really, this case comes down to your opinions:

-Is the absence of justification for change the same as the presence of nefarious intent?
-If evidence is unavailable by reason of immunity in case #1, is it proper to compare to compare case #1 with case #2 where such evidence is present? Would your answer change if the evidence was unavailable due to being inadmissible?
-Which interest carries more weight: presumptive constitutionality, or justiciability?

I look forward to seeing you in the comments!
-J. McL

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