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Shelby County v. Holder: When the Rational Becomes Irrational

April 30, 2014 | Download

In this Article, Lawyers Committee Chief Counsel Jon Greenbaum and Counsels Alan Martinson and Sonia Gill argue that the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder defied the deferential nature of the rational basis test and conflicted with how that test was applied in South Carolina v. Katzenbach and City of Rome v. United States. In the process, the Court misstated the theory of coverage Congress used to enact the 2006 reauthorization and refused to acknowledge that Congress’s purpose was to cover jurisdictions with historical and current records of discrimination. This article further identifies and challenges two components of the Court’s reasoning in the Shelby County v. Holder decision: that treating states differently was an affront to the “equal sovereignty” of states, and that the explicit use of race conflicts with the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

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