Voting Rights Institute Launches Tonight Training a New Generation of Voting Rights Lawyers


Tonight, the Campaign Legal Center and American University’s Washington College of Law will jointly launch a new Voting Rights Law Institute to help train the next generation voting rights litigators.  The four-night Institute will be held tonight through Thursday night (June 27), to train and update law students and practitioners on enforcement of voting rights law, particularly cases brought to enforce Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, and the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution.   This Voting Rights Institute is believed to be the first of its kind. 

 Experts in the field will provide background on the Voting Rights Act and relevant Supreme Court cases and will then focus on teaching participants the litigation mechanics of voting rights litigation.  Participants will gain detailed knowledge of the Voting Rights Act and how it impacts voting rights laws state-by-state.  Institute instructors will teach the skills needed to litigate voting rights cases.  J. Gerald Hebert, the Legal Center’s Executive Director will serve as the Institute’s lead instructor and each night he will be joined by seasoned voting rights litigators, appellate advocates, and scholars in the field.

“Not since the Voting Rights Act was passed by Congress in 1965 has there been so great a need for new voting rights litigators,” said J. Gerald Hebert.  “The franchise is under siege in our nation as state legislators and local governments jockeying for partisan advantage enact voting restrictions that disproportionately impact the racial and language minorities.  Whether or not the Supreme Court strikes down the preclearance provisions of the Voting Rights Act this week, these attacks on the right to vote will continue and the Voting Rights Institute is designed to help train the lawyers to fill the breech and protect the franchise.”    

The Institute’s expert faculty will include: Gilda R. Daniels (Associate Professor of Law at the University of Baltimore School of Law), Armand Derfner (Attorney, Derfner, Altman & Wilborn), Chad W. Dunn (Partner, Brazil & Dunn), Allan J. Lichtman (Distinguished Professor of History at American University), Nina Perales (Director of Litigation, Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund [MALDEF]), David Richards (Attorney, Richards, Rodriguez & Skeith), Paul M. Smith (Attorney, Jenner & Block), Bruce V. Spiva (Founding Partner, The Spiva Law Firm) and Brenda Wright (Vice President of Legal Strategies, Demos).

The Rockefeller Brothers Fund ( generously provided financial support to help make the Voting Rights Institute possible.  An overview of the Institute’s schedule follows below. Lawyers and law students can register online for CLE, certificate or academic credit.  For more information in the Voting Rights Institute, including detailed biographies of faculty members, or to register, click here.

Voting Rights Institute

Four Evenings—June 24 – 27, 2013 from 6:00pm-9:00pm

Understanding the Voting Rights Act

First Evening (6/24):  Overview of Voting Rights Act

A synopsis of the Voting Rights Act, with a focus on Sections 2, 4 and 5; an overview of the issues and arguments in Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder (which will either have been decided by then or will be decided that week). 

Second Evening (6/25):  A Look at Section 2, Prohibition on Voting Discrimination

Regarding Section 2, the following cases/legislation will be highlighted and discussed: the 1982 amendments to the Voting Rights Act (overruling City of Mobile v. Bolden and establishing a totality of circumstances “results” test); Thornburgh v. Gingles; Johnson v. DeGrandy; and LULAC v. Perry; Growe v. Emison proving racially discriminatory intent under Village of Arlington Heights v. Metropolitan Housing Corp.; the Texas redistricting cases (still pending) where the Court found intent; differing proof in Section 2 results cases and intent constitutional cases; and the First Amendment and proving partisan gerrymandering (in light of Vieth v. Jubelirer); Larios v. Cox (winning a political gerrymandering case by bringing a one-person, one-vote claim).

Bringing Voting Rights Cases to Court

Third Evening (6/26): Where and When to File

Mechanics of bringing lawsuits to enforce voting rights:  whether to file in state court or federal court; how to ensure that plaintiffs have standing to sue (including associational standing issues that may arise); how to develop proof of discriminatory intent in discovery;  overcoming claims of legislative privilege; how to prepare and keep under control expert witnesses in Voting Rights Act cases, including a primer on how to conduct an analysis of whether voting patterns are racially polarized (as required under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act).

Fourth Evening (6/27):  Best Litigation Practices

Mechanics of bringing lawsuits to enforce voting rights: examination of best litigation practices in all stages of a case, both pre-trial and at trial: review of model pleadings, review of sample depositions, review of trial transcripts demonstrating best techniques of examining and cross-examining witnesses, and presenting evidence.

Wrap-up of all four classes with concluding overview of lessons from the week.