Appearances, Publications & Speeches
Why I told the Senate that Jeff Sessions thought civil rights groups were ‘un-American’ (The Washington Post)Nov 22, 2016
I was a young lawyer in the civil rights division at the Justice Department in 1981 when I first encountered Jeff Sessions. At the time, Sessions was the new U.S. attorney for Alabama. I met him while I was handling a major voting rights case in Mobile, and I relayed a rumor I’d heard: A federal judge there had allegedly referred to a civil rights lawyer as “a traitor to his race” for taking on black clients. Sessions responded, “Well, maybe he is.”
- Aug 3, 2016
Last week, a federal appeals court struck down North Carolina’s omnibus voter suppression law — a law so jam-packed with voting restrictions targeted at poor, minority communities that its moniker was the “monster law.”
The decision was handed down alongside a spate of other federal decisions in the past two weeks blocking voter restrictions and voter ID requirements in Wisconsin, Texas, North Dakota and Kansas. Some of these laws had been rushed through and passed following the U.S. Supreme Court’s devastating 2013 blow to the Voting Rights Act, which for 50 years had protected voters from discriminatory laws like poll taxes, literacy tests and the like.
Why Participation at the Federal Election Commission Matters, Despite the Agency's Dysfunction (The Huffington Post)Dec 17, 2014
We are sometimes asked why the Campaign Legal Center even bothers dealing with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) anymore -- except to sue it for undermining the letter and the spirit of the laws passed by Congress...
- Nov 3, 2014
Every two years, in the run-up to national elections, the usual suspects begin to beat the drum about the supposed scourge of voter fraud...
- Sep 26, 2013
In yet another display of the Texas judiciary's overt partisanship in the legal saga over Tom DeLay's alleged money laundering scheme during the 2002 Texas elections, a court of appeals overturned DeLay's conviction last Thursday.
Disappointingly -- yet perhaps unsurprisingly -- the court of appeals' decision split along partisan lines. The two Republican judges, Melissa Goodwin and David Gaultney, found that there was insufficient evidence to support the jury's 2010 guilty verdict. But as Chief Justice J. Woodfin Jones (a Democrat) noted in his dissent, there was evidence from which rational jurors could find that DeLay and two of his associates illegally funneled corporate funds to candidates for Texas offices and DeLay's guilt was a decision for the jury to decide.
- Jun 26, 2013
The Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in Shelby County v. Holder, struck down core provisions of the Voting Rights Act. The Court declared Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional, invalidating the coverage formula that determines which jurisdictions must seek federal approval of their voting changes under the Act. This decision is a major setback for voting rights and will have a real, detrimental impact on voters.
Without federal oversight of voting changes in the covered states, the cause of racial equality and effective participation by minority voters in our democracy is harmed in four ways:
- Jun 5, 2013
As someone who has devoted the vast majority of my professional career enforcing the Voting Rights Act, the imminent decision in the Shelby County, Alabama case will be of great interest to me. My perspective is a unique one: I spent over twenty years in the Department of Justice (most of that time enforcing the Voting Rights Act), and I have spent nearly twenty years in private solo practice representing state and local governments who have endeavored to comply with the Voting Rights Act. Moreover, of the approximately 209 state and political subdivisions that have bailed out since the 1982 amendments to the Voting Rights Act liberalized the bailout requirements, I have represented around 95 percent of those jurisdictions.
- Oct 17, 2012
The new issue of the Rutgers Law Review takes a close at the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in a year when the Supreme Court is expected to revisit the landmark Civil Rights legislation. Legal Center Executive Director J. Gerald Hebert wrote an article for the issue, “The Future of the Voting Rights Act” which examines the background of the Act, its multiple renewals and the court challenges which followed each one. The piece goes on to take a close look at the Act’s Section 5 bailout provisions, their effectiveness and affordability, the Court’s significant underestimate of the jurisdictions which have utilized them, and how they provide the flexibility to continually tweak and improve this still-vital Congressional remedy to discrimination.
To read the full article in the Rutgers Law Review, click here.
- Oct 2, 2012
It seems like an obvious proposition, that a citizen registering to vote casting a ballot, is engaged in free speech, a fundamental right entitled to full protection under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. The proposition seems especially obvious in light of the broad First Amendment protection extended to the dollars spent by financial contributors to influence our votes.
But that is not how the Supreme Court sees it. Spending in elections -- by candidates, political parties, individuals, corporations, labor unions, and others -- is treated as free speech entitled to broad First Amendment protection against state and federal limitation. Registering and voting, on the other hand, do not have such protection and can be restricted within states' broad discretion.