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Northwest Austin Municipal v. Holder

Docket No.: 08-322
Certiorari Granted: 1/9/2009
Argued: April 29, 2009
Decided: June 22, 2009

PartyNames: Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District Number One, Appellant v. Eric H. Holder, Jr., Attorney General, et al.
Petitioner: Northwest Austin Municipal Utility Distr
Respondent: Eric H. Holder, Jr., Attorney General, e

Court Below: United States District Court for the District of Columbia

Northwest Austin Municipal Utility Distr
v.
Eric H. Holder, Jr., Attorney General, e
Question Presented:

1. Whether §4(a) of the Voting Rights Act, which permits "political subdivisions" of a State covered by §5's requirement that certain jurisdictions preclear changes affecting voting with the federal government to bail out of §5 coverage if they can establish a ten-year history of compliance with the VRA, must be available to any political subunit of a covered State when the Court's precedent requires "political subdivision" to be given its ordinary meaning throughout most of the VRA and no statutory text abrogates that interpretation with respect to §4(a).2. Whether, under the Court's consistent jurisprudence requiring that remedial legislation be congruent and proportional to substantive constitutional guarantees, the 2006 enactment of the §5 preclearance requirement can be applied as a valid exercise of Congress's remedial powers under the Reconstruction Amendments when that enactment was founded on a congressional record demonstrating no evidence of a persisting pattern of attempts to evade court enforcement of voting-rights guarantees in jurisdictions covered only on the basis of data 35 or more years old, or even when considered under a purportedly less stringent rational-basis standard

Question:

1) Does Section 4(a) of the Voting Rights Act ("VRA") permit any "political subunit" of a "covered state" from seeking exemption from Section 5 of the VRA when it permits "political subdivisions" within "covered states" from seeking such exemptions? 2) Was the 2006 extension of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act a valid exercise of congressional power when the Congressional Record indicated no persistent patter of "covered states" attempting to evade the enforcement of the VRA?

Note:

EXPEDITED BRIEFING SCHEDULE.

Holding: reversed and remanded
Vote: 8-1
Read NORTHWEST AUSTIN MUNICIPAL V. HOLDER opinion (PDF)