Supreme Court Shelby County v. Holder Decision: Statement of J. Gerald Hebert


Today’s decision is a huge setback for civil rights in our nation.  It is citizens, specifically the nation’s minorities, who will suffer as a result the votes of 5 Supreme Court Justices.   The Roberts Court proved again that it will not be deterred by Supreme Court precedent, the realities on the ground in our nation; nor will it defer to Congress even when the legislative branch is granted clear authority by the Constitution to remedy our nation's long history of discrimination against racial and language minorities.  The Court today declared racism dead in this country despite mountains of evidence to the contrary.  Section 4 and by extension Section 5 are the linchpins of the Voting Rights Act, which continued to block discriminatory voting changes up until today in the aftermath of the Act’s last reauthorization in 2006.  That reauthorization was passed by overwhelming bipartisan majorities in both the House and the Senate.  And it is time once again for Congress to enact legislation to protect minority voters and to do so quickly. 

The Constitution grants Congress clear and complete authority to ensure that no American is denied the right to vote because of their race, but a narrow majority of the Supreme Court usurped that authority today.  This ruling is an extreme act of judicial activism and Congress must respond in a strong bipartisan manner with new legislation to safeguard the franchise.

J. Gerald Hebert is Executive Director and Director of Litigation at the Campaign Legal Center. The Legal Center filed an amici brief in Shelby County v. Holder on behalf of several jurisdictions that have bailed out under the Act by demonstrating a record of non-discrimination. Hebert through his private practice has represented approximately 90% of the jurisdiction to successfully bail out from the Voting Rights Act’s preclearance provisions. He also spent more than two decades at the Department of Justice, predominantly in the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division where he served in many supervisory capacities.