Historian Eric Foner Compares the Rucho Partisan Gerrymandering Case to the Supreme Court’s Decision in Giles v. Harris

Foner at The Nation:

Oliver Wendell Holmes, recently appointed to the Court by Theodore Roosevelt, wrote the opinion for a 6-3 majority. Like Chief Justice Roberts today, Holmes threw up his hands and described the Supreme Court as impotent. If “the great mass of the white population intends to keep the blacks from voting,” he wrote, there was nothing the justices could do. The courts could not get involved in politics. “Relief from a great political wrong” could only come from the “people of a state” through their elected officials, or from Congress. Holmes ignored the fact that the definition of the “people” of Alabama was precisely the point at issue. Holmes would go on to a distinguished judicial career. Giles v. Harris, one scholar has written, “is—or should be—the most prominent stain” on his reputation. Chief Justice Roberts, take note.


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