A panel of conservative judges on the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that private individuals or groups cannot bring suit under the Voting Rights Act on Monday.
The that the groups had no right to sue to enforce the Voting Rights Act.
In the Monday ruling, appeals court judges David Stras, a Trump appointee, and Raymond Gruender, a George W. Bush appointee, affirmed Rudofsky’s decision, arguing that the text of the Voting Rights Act did not provide a private right of action to sue to enforce the law. In doing so, they pointed to Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch’s concurrence, joined by Justice Clarence Thomas, in the case of Brnovich v. DNC in which he called the legality of a private right to sue to enforce the Voting Rights Act “an open question.”
This ruling by Stras and Gruender, however, flies in the face of decades of Supreme Court precedent involving cases brought by private parties to sue to enforce the Voting Rights Act.
In his dissent from Monday’s decision, Lavenski Smith, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit and a George W. Bush appointee, listed precedents going back to the 1980s where the court ruled on suits brought by private groups, and precedents authorizing a private right to sue under federal statutes going back to the 1960s.
“Until the Court rules or Congress amends the statute, I would follow existing precedent that permits citizens to seek a judicial remedy,” Smith wrote.
The decision is an extreme outlier in recent Voting Rights Act litigation. Federal judges have ruled in cases brought by private parties that district maps enacted by Republicans in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and North Dakota violated the Voting Rights Act.