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Berger v. NC NAACP Update – June 2022

June 23, 2022

U.S. Supreme Court Allows North Carolina Legislators to Intervene in Federal Voter ID Case, Restarting the Fight to Protect Voting Rights Under the Federal Constitution and the Voting Rights Act

Plaintiffs, attorneys, and advocates say legislative leaders’ interests were already adequately represented in federal court, and their participation will cause significant delays and obstructions to the case

Raleigh, N.C- Today, a majority of the U.S. Supreme Court in Berger v. NC NAACP determined that two North Carolina legislative leaders should be allowed to intervene in the NC NAACP’s challenge to S.B. 824, the discriminatory Photo Voter ID law passed in 2018.  That law is already halted via a parallel state court decision, where the General Assembly leadership participated and lost, because the state court held that the law was passed with illegal discriminatory purpose

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision reverses the final holding of the full en banc Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld the federal trial court’s decision to deny intervention to the General Assembly’s leadership, and thereby resolves the question of which parties will continue in the federal challenge to the discriminatory law. The Supreme Court’s decision focused exclusively on a question of civil procedure under Rule 24(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The question has real consequences for plaintiffs like the NC NAACP seeking to vindicate the right to vote of African Americans and other voters of color across the country. At issue: How many and which parties can represent the interests of the state of North Carolina in defending an unconstitutional law in federal court? 

The NC NAACP Plaintiffs group previously successfully opposed the intervention of two legislative leaders, who asserted interests on behalf of the state that Plaintiffs argued were already represented in federal court, and whose participation in the proceedings threatened to create significant delays and obstructions to the consideration of Plaintiffs’ claims under the Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution.  While the Supreme Court has now decided that the legislative leaders may intervene as a procedural matter, its decision does not address the constitutionality of North Carolina’s discriminatory Voter ID law, and the NC NAACP will vigorously pursue its challenge to that law now that the case will return to the federal trial court.  

In response to the opinion today Deborah Maxwell, President of the NC NAACP, said: “We are disappointed in the majority opinion, and agree with Justice Sotomayor’s dissent. However, the NC NAACP welcomes the opportunity to vigorously continue our challenge to this discriminatory law. Indeed, the NC NAACP is no stranger to the long fight for justice and the right to vote. Today we reaffirm our call to all North Carolinians to stand with us. We know there is no victory without a fight and it is incumbent upon all of us to fight for the full freedom to vote in every election, and for the very life of our democracy.”