A federal appeals court ruled Monday that private individuals and groups, such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), lack standing to sue under a key provision of federal law. . voting rights, a decision that goes against decades of precedent and could further undermine the protections established by the historic 1965 law.
The decision was by 2 votes in favor and 1 against a panel of the Federal Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit, based in St. Louis, determined that only the federal Secretary of Justice can use Section 2 of the voting rights law, which requires that political maps include districts where preferred minority candidates can win electoral contests.
The majority notes that other federal laws, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964, clarify when private groups can sue, but notes that similar language is not found in the election law.
“Absent those details, it is not our place to fill in the blanks, unless ‘text and structure’ is necessary,” Federal Judge David R. Stras wrote in the majority opinion, in which he was joined by Judge Raymond W. Gruender. . Stras was nominated to the bench by former President Donald Trump and Gruender by former President George W. Bush.
The decision upheld a lower judge’s decision to dismiss the case brought by the Arkansas NAACP State Conference and the Arkansas Public Policy Panel after Attorney General Merrick B. Garland was given five days to join the complaint.
In his dissenting opinion, Judge Lavenski R. Smith noted that federal courts around the country and the US Supreme Court have taken up many cases brought by private plaintiffs under Section 2. Smith said the court should follow of “precedent” existing law authorizing a legal remedy” unless the Supreme Court or Congress decides otherwise.
“The rights so fundamental to self-government and citizenship should not depend solely on the judgment or ability of government agents to protect,” wrote Smith, who was also appointed to the position by George W. Bush.