Case Summary

On June 10, 2019, two organizations and four individual plaintiffs represented by the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund filed a federal lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas challenging the method of electing judges to the Arkansas Court of Appeals and Supreme Court. Defendants named in the lawsuit included the State of Arkansas; the Arkansas Board of Apportionment and Board of Election Commissioners; and Arkansas's Governor, Secretary of State, and Attorney General in their official capacities.

The lawsuit alleged that the use of at-large districts to elect judges to the Supreme Court and the use of both single and multimember districts to elect judges to the Court of Appeals, in conjunction with other factors such as the use of staggered terms, had the effect of diluting the votes of African American voters in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. Plaintiffs sought a court order barring Arkansas from using these methods and compelling the State of Arkansas, or the Court if necessary, to implement new methods of election for future contests to the Arkansas Supreme Court and Court of Appeals, such as single member districts and cumulative voting.

On February 21, 2020, the district court issued an order granting the defendants' motion to dismiss the claims brought against the State of Arkansas, the Board of Apportionment, and Board of Election Commissioners on the grounds of sovereign immunity, and further ordered the plaintiffs to produce additional evidence to support their alleged Section 2 violation.

On April 10, 2020, the district court entered an order amending the court's scheduling order and staying discovery in light of the coronavirus pandemic. On August 11, 2020, the district court issued an order lifting the stay on discovery and on August 17, 2020, the court entered the final scheduling order for the case. The scheduling order was amended on February 23, 2021, providing that discovery in the case be completed by August 23, 2021, and setting a bench trial for November 30, 2021.

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U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas - 4:19-cv-00402