Divided 8th Circuit panel finds Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act does not allow private plaintiffs to sue

Judge Stras, joined by Judge Gruender, affirming the district court. From the opening in Arkansas State Conference of the NAACP v. Arkansas Board of Apportionment: “Did Congress give private plaintiffs the ability to sue under § 2 of the Voting Rights Act? Text and structure reveal that the answer is no, so we affirm the district court’s decision to dismiss.”

And Chief Judge Smith in dissent: “Admittedly, the Court has never directly addressed the existence of a private right of action under § 2; however, it has repeatedly considered such cases, held that private rights of action exist under other sections of the VRA, and concluded in other VRA cases that a private right of action exists under § 2. Until the Court rules or Congress amends the statute, I would follow existing precedent that permits citizens to seek a judicial remedy. Rights so foundational to self-government and citizenship should not depend solely on the discretion or availability of the government’s agents for protection. Resolution of whether § 2 affords private plaintiffs the ability to challenge state action is best left to the Supreme Court in the first instance.”

My summary from oral argument earlier this year is here.

Share this: