Arnold & Porter Wins North Carolina Voting Rights Victory at US Supreme Court
Arnold & Porter continued its string of victories for the citizens of North Carolina when the US Supreme Court refused to stay the North Carolina Supreme Court’s decision striking down the state’s gerrymandered congressional map under the state constitution.
“North Carolina voters will now be able to vote in free and fair congressional elections this year,” partner Stanton Jones told The New York Times.
On February 4, 2022, the North Carolina Supreme Court held that the congressional and state legislative maps enacted in 2021 violated provisions of the state constitution guaranteeing free elections, equal protection, and free speech and assembly. The state high court ordered a remedial process to adopt new maps for the 2022 elections that give voters of all political parties “equal opportunity to translate votes into seats.” On February 23, 2022, the North Carolina trial court rejected the General Assembly’s remedial congressional map and adopted a map drawn by the court with assistance of a special master. The Republican legislative leaders asked the US Supreme Court to stay the state courts’ decisions on the theory that the federal constitution gives state legislatures unchecked power to rig federal elections without regard to state constitutional constraints or state court judicial review. In a divided decision, the Justices refused to do so.
The Arnold & Porter team originally brought the case in November 2021 on behalf of North Carolina voters, asserting that the maps’ extreme and intentional partisan bias–for instance, locking in at least 10 of the state's 14 congressional seats for the Republican Party in an evenly divided state–violates the North Carolina Constitution. The case was litigated on an accelerated schedule, with all fact and expert discovery conducted in December, a four-day trial in early January, and full briefing, oral argument, and decision in the state supreme court in under a month.
The Arnold & Porter team initially prevailed on this issue when a North Carolina three-judge trial court panel unanimously struck down North Carolina's state legislative maps as unconstitutional partisan gerrymanders, and later enjoined the state's congressional map on the same grounds.
The Arnold & Porter team was led by partners Elisabeth Theodore, Stanton Jones, and senior associate Sam Callahan.