Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens took his former colleagues to task for their decision this summer on the Voting Rights Act,
By TAL KOPAN | 7/22/13 2:50 PM EDT
Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens took some of his former colleagues to task for their decision this summer on the Voting Rights Act, criticizing the majority that struck down as unconstitutional the pre-clearance part of the landmark civil rights law.
Writing “A Dissent” in The New York Review of Books, Stevens reflected on the book Bending Toward Justice: The Voting Rights Act and the Transformation of American Democracyy, by Gary May, which was released this April. Using May’s account of the events in the South that precipitated the passing of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, Stevens criticized Chief Justice John Roberts’s opinion over its analysis of history, and disputed its rationale for overturning the provision.
“The statistics set forth in Roberts’s recent opinion persuasively explain why a neutral decision-maker could reasonably conclude that at long last the imposition of the preclearance requirement on the states that lost the Civil War—or more precisely continuing to use the formula that in 1965 identified those states—is not justified by the conditions that prevail today. The opinion fails, however, to explain why such a decision should be made by the members of the Supreme Court. The members of Congress, representing the millions of voters who elected them, are far more likely to evaluate correctly the risk that the interest in maintaining the supremacy of the white race still plays a significant role in the politics of those states. After all, that interest was responsible for creating the slave bonus when the Constitution was framed, and in motivating the violent behavior that denied blacks access to the polls in those states for decades prior to the enactment of the VRA.
“The several congressional decisions to preserve the preclearance requirement—including its 2006 decision—were preceded by thorough evidentiary hearings that have consistently disclosed more voting violations in those states than in other parts of the country. Those decisions have had the support of strong majority votes by members of both major political parties. Not only is Congress better able to evaluate the issue than the Court, but it is also the branch of government designated by the Fifteenth Amendment to make decisions of this kind,” Stevens wrote.
Stevens also quotes extensively from Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dissent, calling it “eloquent” and “largely unanswered.”
The full piece is here: http://bit.ly/12MtOCI