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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.


District Court

U.S. Supreme Court