US Court of Appeals Overturns Decision on Nonpartisan Lawsuit vs. Eric Holder

Today, Judge Tatel with the United States Court of Appeals, issued the opinion of a three judge appeals panel concerning LaRoque, et al., vs. Holder, et al.  The ruling overturned a district court, which stated that the plaintiffs did not have standing to bring the lawsuit, among other statements.

In a November 2008 referendum, the residents of Kinston, North Carolina, voted by an almost two to-one margin to switch from partisan to nonpartisan elections for mayor and city council. Absent section 5, Kinston’s city council would have had a duty under North Carolina law to amend the city’s charter to implement the referendum. But since Kinston lies in Lenoir County, a covered jurisdiction, it may not implement the referendum until precleared by federal authorities.

According to the decision, “Kinston’s residents could have voted to retain partisan elections, but since they chose otherwise, [John] Nix [Unaffiliated candidate for Kinston City Council] has acognizable interest in reaping the benefits he claims would flow from the nonpartisan system.”

“He [Nix] alleges that absent section 5, the Kinston city council would have a state-law duty to implement the voter referendum—an interpretation of North Carolina law that neither the Attorney General nor intervenors challenge.”

“In sum, a judgment declaring section 5 unconstitutional would remove the federal barrier to the implementation of the nonpartisan referendum, and absent that barrier, there is no reason to believe that the Kinston city council would refrain from carrying out its state-law duty to put the referendum, which the Attorney General’s objection did not and could not nullify, into effect. As a result, Nix has established that his alleged injuries would likely be redressed by a decision in his favor.”

“For the foregoing reasons, we reverse the district court’s dismissal of count one, vacate its dismissal of count two, and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. So ordered.”

Read the full opinion:  DC Circuit Opinion 2011-07-08

Background stories from the Kinston Free Press
Background blog posts on

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