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United States Supreme Court

Law and Race

University of Michigan Law School

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Second Redemption, Third Reconstruction, Richard A. Primus Jan 2019

Second Redemption, Third Reconstruction, Richard A. Primus

Articles

In The Accumulation of Advantages, the picture that Professor Owen Fiss paints about equality during and since the Second Reconstruction is largely a picture in black and white. That makes some sense. The black/white experience is probably the most important throughline in the story of equal protection. It was the central theme of both the First and Second Reconstructions. In keeping with that orientation, the picture of disadvantage described by Fiss’s theory of cumulative responsibility is largely drawn from the black/white experience. Important as it is, however, the black/white experience does not exhaust the subject of ...


Section 2 After Section 5: Voting Rights And The Race To The Bottom, Ellen D. Katz Apr 2018

Section 2 After Section 5: Voting Rights And The Race To The Bottom, Ellen D. Katz

Articles

Five years ago, Shelby County v. Holder released nine states and fifty-five smaller jurisdictions from the preclearance obligation set forth in section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). This obligation mandated that places with a history of discrimination in voting obtain federal approval—known as preclearance—before changing any electoral rule or procedure. Within hours of the Shelby County decision, jurisdictions began moving to reenact measures section 5 had specifically blocked. Others pressed forward with new rules that the VRA would have barred prior to Shelby County.


Dismissing Deterrence, Ellen D. Katz Apr 2014

Dismissing Deterrence, Ellen D. Katz

Articles

The proposed Voting Rights Amendment Act of 20144 (VRAA)[...]’s new criteria defining when jurisdictions become subject to preclearance are acutely responsive to the concerns articulated in Shelby County[ v. Holder]. The result is a preclearance regime that, if enacted, would operate in fewer places and demand less from those it regulates. This new regime, however, would not only be more targeted and less powerful, but, curiously, more vulnerable to challenge. In fact, the regime would be more vulnerable precisely because it is so responsive to Shelby County. Some background will help us see why.


Universalism And Civil Rights (With Notes On Voting Rights After Shelby), Samuel R. Bagenstos Jan 2014

Universalism And Civil Rights (With Notes On Voting Rights After Shelby), Samuel R. Bagenstos

Articles

After the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder, voting rights activists proposed a variety of legislative responses. Some proposals sought to move beyond measures that targeted voting discrimination based on race or ethnicity. They instead sought to eliminate certain problematic practices that place too great a burden on voting generally. Responses like these are universalist, because rather than seeking to protect any particular group against discrimination, they formally provide uniform protections to everyone. As Bruce Ackerman shows, voting rights activists confronted a similar set of questions—and at least some of them opted for a universalist approach ...


Mandatory Sentencing And Racial Disparity, Assessing The Role Of Prosecutors And The Effects Of Booker, Sonja B. Starr, M. Marit Rehavi Jan 2013

Mandatory Sentencing And Racial Disparity, Assessing The Role Of Prosecutors And The Effects Of Booker, Sonja B. Starr, M. Marit Rehavi

Articles

This Article presents new empirical evidence concerning the effects of United States v. Booker, which loosened the formerly mandatory U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, on racial disparities in federal criminal cases. Two serious limitations pervade existing empirical literature on sentencing disparities. First, studies focus on sentencing in isolation, controlling for the “presumptive sentence” or similar measures that themselves result from discretionary charging, plea-bargaining, and fact-finding processes. Any disparities in these earlier processes are excluded from the resulting sentence-disparity estimates. Our research has shown that this exclusion matters: pre-sentencing decision-making can have substantial sentence-disparity consequences. Second, existing studies have used loose causal ...


South Carolina's 'Evolutionary Process', Ellen D. Katz Jan 2013

South Carolina's 'Evolutionary Process', Ellen D. Katz

Articles

When Congress first enacted the Voting Rights Act (VRA) in 1965, public officials in South Carolina led the charge to scrap the new statute. Their brief to the Supreme Court of the United States described the VRA as an “unjustified” and “arbitrary” affront to the “Equality of Statehood” principle, and a “usurp[ation]” of the State’s legislative and executive functions. Not surprisingly, the Warren Court was unpersuaded and opted instead to endorse broad congressional power to craft “inventive” remedies to address systematic racial discrimination and to “shift the advantage of time and inertia from the perpetrators of evil to ...


Shelby County V. Holder: Why Section 2 Matters, Ellen D. Katz Jan 2013

Shelby County V. Holder: Why Section 2 Matters, Ellen D. Katz

Articles

Editor’s Note: Professor Ellen D. Katz writes and teaches about election law, civil rights and remedies, and equal protection. She and the Voting Rights Initiative at Michigan Law filed a brief as amicus curiae in Shelby County v. Holder, on which the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments February 27. Here, she examines why Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act bears consideration in the case, which involves a challenge to Section 5 of the act.


Grutter's Denouement: Three Templates From The Roberts Court, Ellen D. Katz Jan 2013

Grutter's Denouement: Three Templates From The Roberts Court, Ellen D. Katz

Articles

Precedent from the Roberts Court shows the Justices taking three distinct approaches to precedent they dislike. Each provides a template for the Court to criticize race-based affirmative action in higher education, as Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin is widely expected to do. Most narrowly, the Court might use Fisher to issue a warning, much like it did in 2009 when it sidestepped a constitutional challenge to the Voting Rights Act; under this approach, the opinion would spell out why the Justices think the diversity celebrated in Grutter v. Bollinger no longer provides sufficient justification for the use of ...


A Cure Worse Than The Disease?, Ellen D. Katz Jan 2013

A Cure Worse Than The Disease?, Ellen D. Katz

Articles

The pending challenge to section 5 of the Voting Rights Act insists the statute is no longer necessary. Should the Supreme Court agree, its ruling is likely to reflect the belief that section 5 is not only obsolete but that its requirements do more harm today than the condition it was crafted to address. In this Essay, Professor Ellen D. Katz examines why the Court might liken section 5 to a destructive treatment and why reliance on that analogy in the pending case threatens to leave the underlying condition unaddressed and Congress without the power to address it.


What Was Wrong With The Record?, Ellen D. Katz Jan 2013

What Was Wrong With The Record?, Ellen D. Katz

Articles

Shelby County v. Holder offers three reasons for why the record Congress amassed to support the 2006 reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) was legally insufficient to justify the statute's continued regional application: (1) the problems Congress documented in 2006 were not as severe as those that prompted it to craft the regime in 1965; (2) these problems did not lead Congress to alter the statute's pre-existing coverage formula; and (3) these problems did not exclusively involve voter registration and the casting of ballots.


On Estimating Disparity And Inferring Causation: Sur-Reply To The U.S. Sentencing Commission Staff, Sonja B. Starr, M. Marit Rehavi Jan 2013

On Estimating Disparity And Inferring Causation: Sur-Reply To The U.S. Sentencing Commission Staff, Sonja B. Starr, M. Marit Rehavi

Articles

In this Essay, Professors Starr and Rehavi respond to the U.S. Sentencing Commission’s empirical staff’s criticisms of their recent article, which found, contrary to the Commission’s prior work, no evidence that racial disparity in sentences increased in response to United States v. Booker. As Starr and Rehavi suggest, their differences with the Commission perhaps relate to differing objectives. The Commission staff’s reply expresses a lack of interest in identifying Booker’s causal effects; in contrast, that is Starr and Rehavi’s central objective. In addition, Starr and Rehavi’s approach also accounts for disparities arising ...


The Future Of Disparate Impact, Richard A. Primus Jan 2010

The Future Of Disparate Impact, Richard A. Primus

Articles

The Supreme Court's decision in Ricci v. DeStefano foregrounded the question of whether Title VIl's disparate impact standard conflicts with equal protection. This Article shows that there are three ways to read Ricci, one of which is likely fatal to disparate impact doctrine but the other two of which are not.


Public Rights, Social Equality, And The Conceptual Roots Of The Plessy Challenge, Rebecca J. Scott Jan 2008

Public Rights, Social Equality, And The Conceptual Roots Of The Plessy Challenge, Rebecca J. Scott

Articles

This Article argues that the test case that gave rise to the 1896 decision in Plessy v. Ferguson is best understood as part of a wellestablished, cosmopolitan tradition of anticaste activism in Louisiana rather than as a quixotic effort that contradicted nineteenth-century ideas of the boundaries of citizens' rights. By drawing a dividing line between civil and political rights, on the one hand, and social rights, on the other, the Supreme Court construed challenges to segregation as claims to a "social equality" that was beyond the scope of judicially cognizable rights. The Louisiana constitutional convention of 1867-68, however, had defined ...


Congressional Power To Extend Preclearance: A Response To Professor Karlan, Ellen D. Katz Jan 2007

Congressional Power To Extend Preclearance: A Response To Professor Karlan, Ellen D. Katz

Articles

Is the core provision of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional? Many people now think that the Act's preclearance requirement is invalid, but Professor Karlan is not among them. In part, that is because she is not convinced the problems that originally motivated Congress to impose preclearance have been fully remedied. Professor Karlan points out the many ways section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) shapes behavior in the jurisdictions subject to the statute--not just by blocking discriminatory electoral changes, but also by influencing less transparent conduct by various political actors operating in these regions. Do not be so ...


Reviving The Right To Vote, Ellen D. Katz Jan 2007

Reviving The Right To Vote, Ellen D. Katz

Articles

Losers in partisan districting battles have long challenged the resulting districting plans under seemingly unrelated legal doctrines. They have filed lawsuits alleging malapportionment, racial gerrymandering, and racial vote dilution, and they periodically prevail. Many election law scholars worry about these lawsuits, claiming that they needlessly "racialize" fundamentally political disputes, distort important legal doctrines designed for other purposes, and provide an inadequate remedy for a fundamentally distinct electoral problem. I am not convinced. This Article argues that the application of distinct doctrines to invalidate or diminish what are indisputably partisan gerrymanders is not necessarily problematic, and that the practice may well ...


The Riddle Of Hiram Revels, Richard A. Primus Jan 2006

The Riddle Of Hiram Revels, Richard A. Primus

Articles

In 1870, a black man named Hiram Revels was named to represent Mississippi in the Senate. Senate Democrats objected to seating him and pointed out that the Constitution specifies that no person may be a senator who has not been a citizen of the United States for at least nine years. Before the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment in 1868, the Democrats argued, Revels had not been a citizen on account of the Supreme Court's 1857 decision in Dred Scott v. Sandford. Thus, even if Revels were a citizen in 1870, he had held that status for only two ...


From Laredo To Fort Worth: Race, Politics And The Texas Redistricting Case, Ellen D. Katz Jan 2006

From Laredo To Fort Worth: Race, Politics And The Texas Redistricting Case, Ellen D. Katz

Articles

LULAC v. Perry held that Texas violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act when it displaced nearly 100,000 Latino residents from a congressional district in Laredo to protect the Republican incumbent they refused to support. At the same time, the Justices let stand the dismantling of a so-called “coalition” district in Fort Worth where African-American voters comprising a minority of the district’s population allegedly enjoyed effective control in deciding the district’s representative. Only Justice Kennedy supported the outcome in both Laredo and Fort Worth. His opinion marks the first time that he, or indeed a majority ...


Post-Admissions Educational Programming In A Post-Grutter World: A Response To Professor Brown, Evan H. Caminker Jan 2006

Post-Admissions Educational Programming In A Post-Grutter World: A Response To Professor Brown, Evan H. Caminker

Articles

When asked to provide commentary on another scholar's reflections on Grutterl and Gratz and affirmative action, I am usually struck by two fears. First, because so much ink has been spilled on this topic, I worry the main presenter will have nothing new and interesting to say. Today this worry has been put to rest; I am so pleased that Professor Dorothy Brown offers a number of novel and intriguing observations and, in the end, advances a novel and intriguing proposal about the role Critical Race Theory ought to play in our nation's law school classrooms. Second, for ...


Bolling Alone, Richard A. Primus Jan 2004

Bolling Alone, Richard A. Primus

Articles

Under the doctrine of reverse incorporation, generally identified with the Supreme Court's decision in Bolling v. Sharpe, equal protection binds the federal government even though the Equal Protection Clause by its terms is addressed only to states. Since Bolling, however, the courts have almost never granted relief to litigants claiming unconstitutional racial discrimination by the federal government. Courts have periodically found unconstitutional federal discrimination on nonracial grounds such as sex and alienage, and reverse incorporation has also limited the scope of affirmative action. But in the presumed core area of preventing federal discrimination against racial minorities, Boiling has virtually ...


A Glimpse Behind And Beyond Grutter, Evan H. Caminker Jan 2004

A Glimpse Behind And Beyond Grutter, Evan H. Caminker

Articles

Many people have suggested that the recent battle over affirmative action was a defining moment for the contemporary relevance of Brown v. Board of Education and that it would determine the promise and potential for widespread societal integration. In my remarks, I want to comment upon a couple of comparisons and links between the Brown, Bakke, Grutter, and Gratz cases.


Derechos Y Honra Públicos: Louis Martinet, Plessy Contra Ferguson Y El Acceso A La Ley En Luisiana, 1888-1917, Rebecca J. Scott Jan 2004

Derechos Y Honra Públicos: Louis Martinet, Plessy Contra Ferguson Y El Acceso A La Ley En Luisiana, 1888-1917, Rebecca J. Scott

Articles

Rebecca J. Scott explores the historical context of Plessy v. Ferguson to two ends. First, Scott argues that that the historical situation, including everyday legal practice, helps us understand the source of the arguments in the case. In particular, the plaintiffs based their understanding of their rights in the French revolution, the Louisiana Constitution, and their experience exercising their rights through notaries. Second, Scott argues that the plaintiffs and defendants sought to frame the case with different rights. For the plaintiffs, the issue with the Separate Car Act was "public rights" and "the dignity of citizenship." The defendants instead framed ...


Equal Protection And Disparate Impact: Round Three, Richard A. Primus Jan 2003

Equal Protection And Disparate Impact: Round Three, Richard A. Primus

Articles

Prior inquiries into the relationship between equal protection and disparate impact have focused on whether equal protection entails a disparate impact standard and whether laws prohibiting disparate impacts can qualify as legislation enforcing equal rotection. In this Article, Professor Primus focuses on a third question: whether equal protection affirmatively forbids the use of statutory disparate impact standards. Like affirmative action, a statute restricting racially disparate impacts is a race-conscious mechanism designed to reallocate opportunities from some racial groups to others. Accordingly, the same individualist view of equal protection that has constrained the operation of affirmative action might also raise questions ...


Constitutional Sunsetting?: Justice O'Connor's Closing Comments On Grutter, Evan H. Caminker, Vikram David Amar Jan 2003

Constitutional Sunsetting?: Justice O'Connor's Closing Comments On Grutter, Evan H. Caminker, Vikram David Amar

Articles

Most Supreme Court watchers were unsurprised that Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's vote proved pivotal in resolving the University of Michigan affirmative action cases; indeed, Justice O'Connor has been in the majority in almost every case involving race over the past decade, and was in the majority in each and every one of the 5-4 decisions the Court handed down across a broad range of difficult issues last Term. Some smaller number of observers were unsurprised that Justice O'Connor decided (along with the four Justices who in the past have voted to allow latitude with regard to ...


Reinforcing Representation: Enforcing The Fourteenth And Fifteenth Amendments In The Rehnquist And Waite Courts, Ellen D. Katz Jan 2003

Reinforcing Representation: Enforcing The Fourteenth And Fifteenth Amendments In The Rehnquist And Waite Courts, Ellen D. Katz

Articles

A large body of academic scholarship accuses the Rehnquist Court of "undoing the Second Reconstruction," just as the Waite Court has long been blamed for facilitating the end of the First. This critique captures much of what is meant by those generally charging the Rehnquist Court with "conservative judicial activism." It posits that the present Court wants to dismantle decades' worth of federal antidiscrimination measures that are aimed at the "reconstruction" of public and private relationships at the local level. It sees the Waite Court as having similarly nullified the civil-rights initiatives enacted by Congress following the Civil War to ...


Race, Peremptories, And Capital Jury Deliberations, Samuel R. Gross Jan 2001

Race, Peremptories, And Capital Jury Deliberations, Samuel R. Gross

Articles

In Lonnie Weeks's capital murder trial in Virginia in 1993, the jury was instructed: If you find from the evidence that the Commonwealth has proved beyond a reasonable doubt, either of the two alternative aggravating factors], and as to that alternative you are unanimous, then you may fix the punishment of the defendant at death or if you believe from all the evidence that the death penalty is not justified, then you shall fix the punishment of the defendant at life imprisonment ... This instruction is plainly ambiguous, at least to a lay audience. Does it mean that if the ...


Asymmetrical Peremptories Defended: A Reply, Richard D. Friedman Jan 1995

Asymmetrical Peremptories Defended: A Reply, Richard D. Friedman

Articles

Three years ago, with the publication of his article ''An Asymmetrical Approach to the Problem of Peremptories" in this journal, Professor Friedman initiated a debate on the subject that was taken up in 1994 by three prosecutors who offered a rebuttal that was also printed in these pages. Professor Friedman continues the debate.


An Asymmetrical Approach To The Problem Of Peremptories?, Richard D. Friedman Jan 1992

An Asymmetrical Approach To The Problem Of Peremptories?, Richard D. Friedman

Articles

The Supreme Court's decision in Batson v. Kentucky, and the extension of Batson to parties other than prosecutors, may be expected to put pressure on the institution of peremptory challenges. After a brief review of the history of peremptories, this article contends that peremptories for criminal defendants serve important values of our criminal justice system. It then argues that peremptories for prosecutors are not as important, and that it may no longer be worthwhile to maintain them in light of the administrative complexities inevitable in a system of peremptories consistent with Batson. The article concludes that the asymmetry of ...


Scholars' Reply To Professor Fried, Yale Kamisar, Lee C. Bollinger, Judith C. Areen, Barbara A. Black Jan 1989

Scholars' Reply To Professor Fried, Yale Kamisar, Lee C. Bollinger, Judith C. Areen, Barbara A. Black

Articles

As Solicitor General of the United States, Charles Fried, like any good advocate, was often in the position of attempting to generate broad holdings from relatively narrow and particularistic Supreme Court decisions. This was especially true in affirmative action cases. There, the Department of Justice argued that cautious precedents actually stood for the broad proposition that measures designed to put members of disadvantaged groups on a plane of equality should, for constitutional purposes, be treated the same as measures intended to stigmatize or subordinate them. The Supreme Court, however, has consistently rejected this reading of its precedents and the broad ...


Judicial Protection Of Minorities, Terrance Sandalow May 1977

Judicial Protection Of Minorities, Terrance Sandalow

Articles

In United States v. Carolene Products Co., Justice Stone suggested by indirection that there "may be narrower scope for operation of the presumption of constitutionality" when courts are called upon to determine the validity "of statutes directed at particular religious . . . or national . . . or racial minorities."' In such cases, he explained, "prejudice against discrete and insular minorities may be a special condition, which tends seriously to curtail the operation of those political processes ordinarily to be relied upon to protect minorities, and which may call for a correspondingly more searching judicial inquiry."' Forty years later, that cautious suggestion has ripened into ...


A New Dimension In Equal Protection?, Theodore J. St. Antoine Jan 1977

A New Dimension In Equal Protection?, Theodore J. St. Antoine

Articles

Two of America's most cherished values will collide head-on this year, when the U.S. Supreme Court comes to grips with the most significant civil rights suit since the school desegregation cases of 1954. Arrayed on one side is the principle of governmental "color-blindness," the appealing notion that the color of a person's skin should have nothing to do with the distribution of benefits or burdens by the state. Set against it is the goal of a truly integrated society and the tragic realization that this objective cannot be achieved within the foreseeable future unless race and color ...