Supreme Court Strikes Down Voting Rights Act Formula

vote1.jpgThe Supreme Court issued decisions in three of the remaining six cases before it in the 2012-13 session today.

Shelby County v. Holder: Chief Justice Roberts writes: Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act is unconstitutional. Its formula can no longer be used as a basis for subjecting jurisdictions to preclearance. Coverage today is based on decades-old data and eradicated practices. The Court makes clear that: “Our decision in no way affects the permanent, nationwide ban on racial discrimination in voting found in [Section] 2. We issue no holding on [Section] 5 itself, only on the coverage formula. Congress may draft another formula based on current conditions”

Shelby County v. Holder asked the court: Whether Congress’ decision in 2006 to reauthorize section 5 of the Voting Rights Act under the pre-existing coverage formula of Section 4(b) [sic] of the Voting Rights Act exceeded its authority under the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments and thus violated the Tenth Amendment and Article IV of the United States Constitution.

The decision was 5-4 with Ginsburg writing the dissent, joined by Breyer Sotomayor, and Kagan. In Justice Ginsburg’s dissent, she says: “In the Court’s view, the very success of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act demands its dormancy.” Here is the opinion.

Here are some details on today’s Voting Rights Act decision from Pete Williams and Erin McClam of NBC News.

Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl: The opinion, by Justice Alito: Assuming for the sake of argument that the biological father is a parent under the Indian Child Welfare Act, neither of the two sections at issue bars the termination of his parental rights. This is a victory for the adoptive parents. Here is the opinion.

Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl asked the Court: (1) Whether a non-custodial parent can invoke the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA), 25 U.S.C. §§ 1901-63, to block an adoption voluntarily and lawfully initiated by a non-Indian parent under state law; and (2) whether ICWA defines “parent” in 25 U.S.C. § 1903(9) to include an unwed biological father who has not complied with state law rules to attain legal status as a parent.

Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Management District: The Court ruled 5-4; Florida Supreme Court is reversed. “The government’s demand for property from a land use permit applicant must satisfy the Nolan and Dolan requirements even when it denies the permit”. Here is the opinion written by Justice Alito.

The court will reconvene on Wednesday at 10 am ET to issue its final decisions for the session. There are three cases left to be decided in this session are: Hollingsworth v. Perry, the Prop 8 case, United States v. Windsor, the Defense of Marriage Act case, and Sekhar, the case involving whether a lawyer’s advice is property for purposes of the Hobbs Act.