We're back live on today's BradCast after a much-needed holiday break. Thanks to those of you who helped us avoid disaster last week! Now the question is whether we'll be able to avoid disaster in next year's Presidential election where we will have "as stark a choice as the United States has ever faced."
A lot happened while we were off (as usual), but none as critical, as far as I'm concerned, as the mind-blowing ruling issued last week by a three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal, upholding an insane lower U.S. District Court Judge's ruling in an Arkansas voting rights case.
The lawsuit, filed by the NAACP, challenges Arkansas' gerrymandered legislative maps which should --- if the rule of law and Constitution mean anything anymore --- include another five Black-majority voting districts before the 2024 elections.
However, last year, a Trump-appointed District Court Judge, while recognizing the merits of the case, found for the first time in U.S. history that individual voters and private organizations like the NAACP and ACLU have no "right to private action" to sue against violations of Section 2 of the landmark Voting Rights Act. The lower court judge found that only the U.S. Attorney General may sue to block racially discriminatory laws under Section 2. And, last week, incredibly enough, that ruling was upheld by the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals panel featuring two Trump judges and one George W. Bush appointed judge.
We're joined today by JONATHAN TOPAZ, Staff Attorney at the ACLU's Voting Rights Project, who worked on the case at both the district and appellate court level. He explains that the District Court ruling "was the first court in the history of the United States to determine that Section 2 lacked a private right of action, which means that private plaintiffs are unable to vindicate their rights under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. This, at the time, and is today, is an incredibly radical ruling. We appealed, because it had no basis in the text and structure of the Voting Rights Act, it had no basis in the precedent, and it certainly had no basis in the practice of decades and decades of private plaintiffs bringing suits to vindicate the incredibly important right to vote free of racial discrimination under the Voting Rights Act."
But, as Topaz goes on to explain, it got worse. Last week "a divided panel of the 8th Circuit voted to affirm the District Court's finding. So now these are the only two courts in the history of the United States that have ever made such a finding."
Indeed, the arguably even more "conservative" 5th Circuit Court of Appeal, recently found the opposite, that private plaintiffs do have the right to sue. So, the 8th Circuit Court is an outlier, with what Topaz describes as "a radical opinion on appeal to the voters of Arkansas and voters around the country."
What happens next? What will it mean if it is upheld by SCOTUS? What are the chances of that actually happening? How can it be that neither SCOTUS nor Congress nor dozens and dozens of courts have previously noticed this flaw in the VRA over the past six decades? And, if SCOTUS does find in favor of the 8th Circuit, what will that mean for the hundreds of Section 2 cases previously decided in favor of private plaintiffs? Tune in for answers to all of those questions and many more.
Also today, a bit of what suffices for "good news" out of the Middle East on Monday, as Israel and Hamas agreed to extend their four-day pause in hostilities for another two days to allow for the release of more hostages from Gaza and more Palestinian prisoners from Israeli prisons.
That largely encouraging news, however, is somewhat tempered by events back here in the U.S. over the weekend, where three Palestinian students were shot at close range in otherwise peaceful Burlington, Vermont. The three young men, all 20 years old, were heading to dinner at one of the men's grandmother's house. A suspect was arrested on Sunday. We discuss.
Then, we open things up to listeners via phone and email in our closing few minutes...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)