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Harris v. Cooper (Amicus Brief)

Harris v. Cooper is an appeal to the Supreme Court of a three-judge panel’s decision to reject a claim that the remedial congressional adopted by North Carolina’s legislature was a partisan gerrymander. In February, a three-judge panel in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina struck down the General Assembly’s 2011 congressional map because the court found that the map was an unconstitutional racial gerrymander. Although the court directed the legislature to modify the congressional districts, the plaintiffs contend that the 2016 remedial map drawn by the legislature resulted in an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. In a summary order issued on June 28, 2018, the Supreme Court affirmed the lower court’s decision.

Published: June 28, 2018

Note: The Bren­nan Center is not a parti­cipant in this case.

Case Back­ground

This Supreme Court appeal arose from a chal­lenge to a remedial congres­sional map adop­ted by the North Caro­lina Legis­lature in Febru­ary 2016 after its original congres­sional map — which the legis­lature adop­ted in 2011 — had been struck down by a three-judge panel as a racial gerry­mander.  To guide the draw­ing of the remedial map, legis­lat­ive lead­ers adop­ted rules that required the map to preserve the state’s exist­ing partisan balance of ten Repub­lican and three Demo­cratic seats. After the state adop­ted the map, the plaintiffs filed objec­tions, contend­ing that it was an uncon­sti­tu­tional partisan gerry­mander.

In summer 2016, the panel denied the plaintiffs’ partisan gerry­man­der­ing objec­tions. In the eight-page opin­ion, the court concluded that its “hands appear to be tied” because partisan gerry­man­der­ing claims are non-justi­ciable. Nonethe­less, the court emphas­ized that its ruling did not prevent further chal­lenges to the state’s remedial plan.

The plaintiffs asked the Supreme Court to review the panel’s decision not to consider the partisan gerry­man­der­ing claim.  The Bren­nan Center filed an amicus curiae brief with the Supreme Court, asking the Justices to summar­ily reverse the panel’s justi­ciab­il­ity ruling and to remand the case for further proceed­ings.

In a summary order issued on June 28, 2018, the Supreme Court affirmed the lower court’s decision.

Docu­ments

District Court

U.S. Supreme Court