Relman Colfax has filed an amicus brief on behalf of the three Alabama fair housing centers in support of Plaintiffs-Respondents in Merrill, et al. v. Milligan, et al., a Voting Rights Act case challenging Alabama’s congressional district plan as diluting the voting power of Black Alabamians.

Plaintiffs-Respondents successfully sought a preliminary injunction in front of a three-judge Alabama federal district court panel in January of 2022, and the Supreme Court stayed the injunction over dissents by Justice Roberts and by Justice Kagan, joined by Justices Sotomayor and Breyer. The Supreme Court has granted certiorari and will now hear the case on the merits.

The three fair housing centers, the Central Alabama Fair Housing Center in Montgomery, the Fair Housing Center of Northern Alabama in Birmingham, and the Center for Fair Housing in Mobile, participated as amici in support of Plaintiffs-Respondents to provide context for the Supreme Court’s assessment of Plaintiffs-Respondents’ VRA claim. The Supreme Court established the current test for vote dilution under the VRA in Thornburg v. Gingles. Where plaintiffs contend that the Black population’s vote has been diluted, Gingles directs courts to begin by assessing whether the Black population is so numerous and compact that it could constitute a majority in an additional district that it has been denied.

As amici explain in their brief, the Black voting age population in Alabama is compact as a result of residential segregation that government bodies in Alabama have imposed for decades in spite of consistent opposition by Black Alabamians. A history of government and government-backed conduct, including racial zoning ordinances, “move-in” violence, segregated public housing, restrictive covenants, government mortgage insurance, highway siting, and laws restricting labor recruitment in the Black Belt, produced highly segregated residential patterns, and these patterns persist today as a result of a host of ongoing forces, including mortgage lending discrimination, racial steering, and school district secession. Alabama’s stark residential segregation was imposed against the will of Black Alabamians and at a great cost to them. Alabama’s current map exploits this residential segregation and deprives Black voters the opportunity to use the political system to redress the harms it causes by “packing” a large group of Black Alabamians into a single majority-Black district and “cracking” the remaining Black population among three heavily majority-white districts.

The amicus brief can be found here.

The Supreme Court will hear argument on the case on October 4, 2022.

The Relman Colfax case team is led by Rebecca Livengood, Gabriel Diaz, and Jennifer Klar, with paralegal assistance from Mariana Boully Perez and Max Niles.

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