North Carolina v. Covington
In a lawsuit filed in May 2015, 31 North Carolina residents sued the state, leaders of the legislative redistricting committee, and the state board of elections, contending that Republican lawmakers had packed African-American voters into nine Senate districts and 19 House districts in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. According to the plaintiffs, Republican lawmakers relied too heavily on race when drawing the districts in 2011, unnecessarily increasing the percentage of black voters in districts where black voters had been successfully electing their candidates of choice in years prior.
After a trial, the panel issued a unanimous opinion on August 11, 2016, ruling in favor of the plaintiffs and noting that the legislature had “enacted nine state senate districts as majority-black districts where previously none of the state’s senate districts were majority-black, and twenty-three majority-black state house districts where previously only ten of those districts were majority-black.”
On November 14, 2016, state lawmakers appealed the panel’s ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court. In their appeal—docketed as No. 16-649—they argue that the legislature drew the districts to avoid a Section 2 violation.
On November 29, while the lawmakers’ appeal to the Supreme Court was pending, the panel ordered the General Assembly to create a remedial map by March 15, 2017 and to hold a special election in fall 2017 using the new districts.
On December 30, the state petitioned the Supreme Court to stay the district court’s remedy pending the resolution of the state’s earlier appeal. The Court granted the stay, issuing an order temporarily blocking the lower court’s remedial order and putting the 2017 special elections on hold.
With their stay in hand, lawmakers filed a second appeal to the Court in February. In that appeal—docketed as No. 16-1023—the lawmakers ask the Court to summarily reverse or vacate the district court’s remedial order, arguing, among other things, that the district court lacked the jurisdiction to implement the order after the state filed its original appeal.
On June 5, 2017, the Supreme Court summarily affirmed the decision of the trial court. The Court also vacated the order staying implementation of a remedy and 2017 special elections, with instructions to the trial court to re-weigh the balance of equities in determining whether special elections in 2017 were appropriate.
On remand, the plaintiffs filed a motion asking the court to establish a timeline for adoption of a remedial redistricting plan and to hold a hearing about whether special elections should be held in 2017. The three-judge trial court asked the defendants and other parties to submit responses. The court did not specify a deadline for responses, but said that it “intends to act promptly on this matter upon obtaining jurisdiction from the Supreme Court.” A hearing addressing the remedial map process and whether there should be a special election will occur on July 27.
Key Court Documents
- Complaint (May 19, 2015)
- First Amended Complaint (July 24, 2015)
- Defendants’ Answer to Amended Complaint (August 14, 2015)
- Defendants’ Trial Brief (March 21, 2016)
- Plaintiffs’ Trial Brief (March 21, 2016)
- Post-Trial Brief by Defendants (May 6, 2016)
- Post-Trial Brief by Plaintiffs (May 6, 2016)
- Trial Brief on the Remedy by Plaintiffs (May 6, 2016)
- Memorandum Opinion (August 11, 2016)
- Order and Judgement (August 15, 2016)
- Report Regarding Remedies by Plaintiffs (September 9, 2016)
- Notice of Appeal to the Supreme Court (September 13, 2016)
- Plaintiffs' Motion for Additional Relief (September 30, 2016)
- Defendants' Response in Opposition to Motion for Additional Relief (October 28, 2016)
- Plaintiff's Reply to Defendants' Memo on Additional Relief (November 15, 2016)
- Order (November 29, 2016)
- Defendants' Emergency Motion to Stay (December 2, 2016)
- Defendants' Notice of Appeal (December 22, 2016)
- Plaintiffs' Response in Opposition to Emergency Motion to Stay (December 23, 2016)
- Defendants' Reply Brief in Support of the Emergency Motion to Stay (December 23, 2016)
- Opinion and Order Denying Motion to Stay (January 4, 2017)
- Plaintiffs' Motion to Set Deadlines for Remedial Plan (June 8, 2017)
- Plaintiffs' Motion for Expedited Evidentiary Hearing (June 8, 2017)
- Plaintiffs' Motion to Expedite Consideration of Motions (June 8, 2017)
- Notice by the Court inviting the Legislative Defendants, the Board of Elections, and the State to submit position statements addressing the Plaintiffs' motions (June 9, 2017)
- Plaintiffs' Statement in Response to Court's Notice (June 15, 2017)
- Notice of Intent to File a Statement of Position by Legislative Defendants (June 26, 2017)
- Legislative Defendants' Position Statement (July 6, 2017)
- Motion of the North Carolina NAACP For Leave to File Amicus Curiae Brief in Support of the Plaintiffs (July 11, 2017)
- Order (July 13, 2017)
- Plaintiffs' Supplemental Brief on Remedies (July 21, 2017)
U.S. Supreme Court Documents
- Jurisdictional Statement for No. 16-649 (November 14, 2016)
- Application (16-A-646) for stay of remedial order pending on resolution of the appeal (December 30, 2016)
- Appellees' Response in No. 16-649 (January 9, 2017)
- Appellants' Response in No. 16-649 (January 10, 2017)
- Application for stay of the order granted (January 10, 2017)
- Jurisdictional Statement (February 21, 2017)
- Appellees' Motion to Affirm (February 28, 2017)
- Appellants' Opposition to Motion to Affirm (March 14, 2017)
- Appellants' Supplemental Brief (May 24, 2017)
- Response to Appellants' Supplemental Brief (May 31, 2017)
- Per Curiam Opinion (June 5, 2017)