Patino et al. v. City of Pasadena


At a Glance

This is a case about the preclearance of voting rights changes to a city in Texas.

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About this Case

About the Case

UPDATE: On Sept. 29, 2017, the city of Pasadena settled the lawsuit, agreeing to make greater than $1 million in payment, covering the plaintiffs' legal fees and court costs. This is a victory because it leaves in place the requirement that Pasadena use its redistricting plan for the remainder of the decade, as well as the district court's preclearance system.

Read the opinion.

Prior to the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder, gutting a key provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the City of Pasadena, Texas (along with the entire state of Texas) was required to “preclear” all voting changes with federal authorities. This preclearance process was designed to make sure that jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination in voting could not put in place voting changes that would have a harmful effect on minority voters.

Almost immediately after Shelby County was decided, Pasadena changed its governmental electoral structure to diminish the voting power of the growing Latino community. It changed its districting plan from eight single-member districts to a hybrid map with six single-member districts and two at-large districts and in the process eliminated a Latino district. Voting-age Latino citizens in Pasadena challenged the discriminatory map.

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas found that Pasadena’s adoption of the new plan was motivated by discriminatory intent and violated the Voting Rights Act and the Fourteenth Amendment. As a remedy for this constitutional violation, the court invoked a provision of the Voting Rights Act, Section 3(c), to place Pasadena under preclearance once again (“bail-in”) until 2023 to ensure that it cannot continue to engage in discrimination in voting.

What’s At Stake

In the wake of Shelby County, Section 3(c) of the Voting Rights Act—that authorizes courts to place states and political subdivisions under preclearance in response to violations of the Fourteenth or Fifteenth Amendment—is a key tool to prevent discrimination in voting before it happens. This case is one of the first to order Section 3(c) preclearance “bail-in” post-Shelby County.

On appeal, the State of Texas (not a party to the case), filed a friend-of-the-court brief questioning the court’s preclearance order. Texas is asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to set an impossibly high bar for Section 3(c) relief in an attempt to eliminate its utility as a tool against discrimination.

CLC submitted a friend-of-the-court brief in support of Pasadena. The brief explains the importance of Section 3(c) as a tool to protect our democracy from discrimination, the validity of the court’s order in this case of intentional discrimination, and Section 3(c) appropriateness under the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments of the Constitution.

The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF), Texas State Conference of the NAACP, ACLU, ACLU Texas, Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC), League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), Southern Coalition for Social Justice (SCSJ), Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the Voting Rights Institute (VRI) also signed on to the brief.

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Fifth Circuit
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