Alabama Seeks Dismissal |of Judicial Election Case

     (CN) — The Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange has asked a federal judge to toss a lawsuit claiming the state’s practice of holding at-large elections to fill appellate court seats discriminates against black candidates.
     The Alabama NAACP sued the state last month, complaining that its judicial elections violate Section 2 of the federal Voting Rights Act.
     In his motion for dismissal, Strange argues the remedy sought by the NAACP and its co-plaintiffs, dividing the state into judicial election districts, “is not an appropriate remedy under Section 2, and Plaintiffs have not stated a claim under Section 2.”
     In its Sept. 7 complaint, the NAACP said Alabama’s use of statewide elections created a distinct lack of racial diversity among the judges elected to the state’s three highest courts — the supreme court, the court of criminal appeals and the court of civil appeals.
     “Today, all nineteen judges on these three courts are white,” the complaint states. “Approximately one-quarter of Alabama’s population is African-American. African Americans have been prevented from participating fully in the election of Alabama’s appellate judges because of the way those judges are elected.”
     The plaintiffs claim the statewide election method “unlawfully dilutes the voting strength of African Americans and prevents them from electing candidates of their choice.”
     As a result, the complaint states, “No African American has won an election to any of the three courts in the past twenty-one years and no African American has served on these courts for the past fifteen years.”
     In his 55-page motion to dismiss, Strange argues that the 11th Circuit has previously “rejected claims that the Voting Rights Act requires States to elect judges by districts.”
     Further, the attorney general claims that “no federal court has read the Voting Rights Act to require the relief Plaintiffs seek in this action.”
     The complaint was submitted by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, in partnership with Alabama attorneys James Blacksher, Edward Still and J. Mitch McGuire and pro bono counsel Crowell & Moring and Stroock & Stroock & Lavan.
     In a September statement, Kristen Clarke, the president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee, said it was time for the state’s highest courts to reflect “the diversity of the communities they serve.”
     “This lawsuit seeks to provide African-American voters an equal opportunity to elect judges of their choice, achieve long overdue compliance with the Voting Rights Act, and instill greater public confidence in the justice system of Alabama,” Clarke said.
     On Friday, the plaintiffs requested an extension of time to respond to the state’s motion to dismiss.

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