Supreme Court - Digested Index

14 February 2022

Elections

North Carolina Constitution—legislative redistricting—compliance with precedent—racially polarized voting analysis required—In an action alleging that redistricting plans enacted by the legislature were partisan gerrymanders in violation of the North Carolina Constitution, where plaintiffs' claims involved the same sections of the state constitution that were interpreted in Stephenson v. Bartlett, 355 N.C. 354 (2002) (Art. 1, secs. 3 and 5, and Art. II, secs. 3 and 5), adherence to Stephenson required the legislature to conduct a racially polarized voting analysis prior to drawing district lines in order to prevent diluting minority voting strength. Harper v. Hall, No. 413PA21 (N.C. Feb. 14, 2022)

North Carolina Constitution—legislative redistricting—gerrymandering claims—political question doctrine—justiciability analysis—In a question of first impression, the Supreme Court concluded that a constitutional challenge to redistricting plans enacted by the legislature–alleging that the plans were partisan gerrymanders in violation of the North Carolina Constitution–raised a justiciable issue. Partisan gerrymandering claims do not constitute nonjusticiable political questions because there is no "textually demonstrable constitutional commitment of the issue" to the "sole discretion" of the legislature where the legislature's redistricting authority is subject to constitutional limitations, and because review of these claims would not require the Court to make "policy choices and value determinations." Plaintiffs' partisan gerrymandering claims were cognizable under the free elections clause, equal protection clause, free speech clause, and freedom of assembly clause, each of which protect voters' fundamental rights to vote on equal terms and to substantially equal voting power. Acts by the legislature that diminish and dilute voting power on the basis of partisan affiliation constitute viewpoint discrimination and retaliation that are subject to strict scrutiny review. Harper v. Hall, No. 413PA21 (N.C. Feb. 14, 2022)

North Carolina Constitution—legislative redistricting—gerrymandering claims—standing—concrete adverseness requirement—In an action alleging that redistricting plans enacted by the legislature were partisan gerrymanders in violation of the North Carolina Constitution, plaintiffs were not required to meet the federal injury-in-fact requirement for standing but needed to demonstrate concrete adverseness, such as being directly injured or adversely affected by the government's actions. Where plaintiffs asserted cognizable claims under the North Carolina Constitution, they raised an actual controversy and, therefore, each individual and organizational plaintiff had standing to bring their claims, whether or not their theory ultimately prevailed. Harper v. Hall, No. 413PA21 (N.C. Feb. 14, 2022)

North Carolina Constitution—legislative redistricting—gerrymandering claims—strict scrutiny standard—In an action alleging that redistricting plans enacted by the legislature were partisan gerrymanders in violation of the North Carolina Constitution, the heightened standard of strict scrutiny applied to the question of whether the legislature infringed on voters' fundamental right to substantially equal voting power where its plans served to diminish or dilute voting power on the basis of partisan affiliation. In applying this standard, the Supreme Court determined that proposed maps for congressional, North Carolina House, and North Carolina Senate districts constituted partisan gerrymandering in violation of the state constitution, and could not pass strict scrutiny, because partisan advantage is neither a compelling nor a legitimate governmental interest, and there was no showing that the maps were tailored to a compelling governmental interest such as neutral districting principles. Harper v. Hall, No. 413PA21 (N.C. Feb. 14, 2022)


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