The Center for Law and Social Justice, Dēmos, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the New York Civil Liberties Union, the Prison Policy Initiative, and the Brennan Center successfully defended in the New York State Supreme Court the constitutionality of Part XX of chapter 57 of the Laws of 2010 (“Part XX”), a New York law requiring that incarcerated persons be allocated for state legislative redistricting purposes to their home community, on behalf of fifteen voters who intervened in the case. The legal challenge was brought by New York State Senator Elizabeth Little and other Plaintiffs. Senator Little and other Plaintiffs have attempted to appeal directly to the New York Court of Appeals.
Part XX was designed to alleviate the previous method of apportionment where legislative districts with prisons were credited with the population of the disenfranchised people temporarily incarcerated there. This practice, often called prison-based gerrymandering, gives extra influence to voters who live in the district with the most prisons, and dilutes the votes of every resident of districts with fewer prisons.
The most dramatic examples of prison-based gerrymandering are in upstate counties and cities. For example, half of a Rome City Council ward is incarcerated, giving the residents of that ward twice the influence of other city residents. Recognizing the distorting effect of prison-based gerrymandering at the local level, thirteen New York counties with large prisons – including four in Senator Little’s district – have historically exercised their discretion to remove the prison populations prior to redistricting.
Part XX brings consistency to redistricting in New York, prohibiting the state and all local governments from giving extra political influence to districts that contain prisons. Senator Little’s lawsuit seeks to have the new legislation struck down, the effect of which would require legislative districts – most notably her own, which contains 12,000 incarcerated persons – to include prison populations in their apportionment counts to the detriment of all other districts without prisons. Returning to this practice would unfairly inflate the districts of those with prisons at the expense of those without prisons.
On December 1, 2011, New York Supreme Court Justice Eugene Devine upheld New York’s law ending prison-based gerrymandering. His decision rejects the Plaintiffs’ claim that Part XX violated various provisions of the New York State Constitution.
Plaintiffs sought an appeal in the New York Court of Appeals, which was declined on February 14, 2012. Their appeal will now proceed to the Appellate Division Third Department.
In addition to the Brennan Center, the groups providing counsel include the Center for Law and Social Justice, Dēmos, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, the New York Civil Liberties Union, and the Prison Policy Initiative.
New York State Court of Appeals Filed Documents:
Court’s Order and Decision Regarding Appeal, dated February 14, 2012—Download PDF
Attorney General’s Letter to Court regarding Jurisdiction, dated December 27, 2011—Download PDF
Intervenors-Respondents’ Letter to Court regarding Jurisdiction, dated December 23, 2011—Download PDF
Plaintiffs’ Letter to Court regarding Jurisdiction, dated December 22, 2011—Download PDF
Court’s Letter questioning Jurisdiction, dated December 16, 2011— Download PDF
Citizen Plaintiffs’ Notice of Appeal, dated December 16, 2011—Download PDF
Plaintiffs’ Preliminary Appeal Statement, dated December 8, 2011—Download PDF
New York Supreme Court, Albany County Filed Documents:
Decision and Order Upholding Part XX and Dismissing Plaintiffs’ Claims, Received December 2, 2011—Download PDF
Reply in Support of Intervenors-Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment and In Opposition to Plaintiffs’ Motion for Summary Judgment (includes supporting Exhibit), Filed September 14, 2011—Download PDF
Plaintiffs’ Reply in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment and in Opposition to Defendant DOCCS Motion for Summary Judgment (includes supporting Affirmation and Exhibits), Filed September 1, 2011—Download PDF
Proposed Amicus Curiae Senator Dilan, “Proposed Motion for Cross-Motion for Leave to File Amicus Curiae Brief”, Filed August 18, 2011—Download PDF
Defendant DOCCS’ Memorandum in Support of Summary Judgment and in Opposition to Plaintiffs’ Motion for Summary Judgment (includes supporting Affirmation and Exhibits), Filed August 18, 2011—Download PDF
Intervenors-Defendants’ Memorandum in Support of Summary Judgment and in Opposition to Plaintiffs’ Motion for Summary Judgment (includes supporting Affirmation and Exhibits), Filed August 18, 2011—Download PDF
Plaintiffs’ Memorandum in Support of Summary Judgment (includes supporting Affirmation and Exhibits), Filed August 5, 2011—Download PDF
Proposed Intervenors’ Reply to Memorandum in Support of Motion to Intervene, Filed June 7, 2011—Download PDF
Plaintiffs’ Response in Opposition to the Motion to Intervene (includes supporting Affirmation and Exhibits), Filed June 1, 2011—Download PDF
Proposed Intervenors Memorandum in Support of Proposed Intervenor-Defendants’ Motion to Intervene (includes supporting Affirmation and Exhibits), Filed May 17, 2011—Download PDF