Racial Equity and Social Justice Amicus Briefs
NASW participates in amicus ("friend of the court") briefs in cases to provide a social work perspective on issues of importance to the profession. NASW’s participation is based on the principles in the NASW Code of Ethics and policy statements published in Social Work Speaks. Some of the cases related to racial equity and social justice that NASW has participated in include:
Elections, Voter Rights and Redistricting
Cooper v. Harris
(U. S. Supreme Court, 15-1262)
Case Description: Addressed voting districts and challenged North Carolina’s racial gerrymandering
NASW Supported: Harris
Date Brief Filed: 10/19/2016; Decided 5/22/2017
The case addressed voting districts and challenged North Carolina’s racial gerrymandering. Gerrymandering describes the intentional manipulation of district boundaries to discriminate against a group of voters on the basis of their political views or race, resulting in maps that are unrepresentative. The Court ruled that the separation of citizens into different voting districts based on race is a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Bethune-Hill v. Virginia State Board of Elections
(U.S. Supreme Court, 15-680)
Case Description: Challenge to Virginia gerrymandering
NASW Supported: Bethune-Hill
Date Brief Filed: 9/14/2016; Decided 3/1/2017
Virginia residents challenged the state's 12 majority-minority House of Delegates districts as racial gerrymanders in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. The court held that districts were racially gerrymandered in violation of the constitution and articulated a three-part test for racial gerrymandering claims.
Evenwel v. Texas
(U.S. Supreme Court, 14-940)
Case Description: Challenge to total population as basis for redistricting.
NASW Supported: Texas
Date Brief Filed: 10/2/2015; Decided 4/4/2016
The case challenged the use of total population instead of the voting population as the basis of Texas redistricting. The “one person, one vote” principle of the Equal Protection Clause allows a state to design its own legislative districts based on population. The amicus brief argued that total population is an appropriate basis for redistricting because it ensures that all people are represented in the political process, and it is consistent with the Fourteenth Amendment. The Court unanimously upheld the practice of drawing legislative districts on the basis of total population, concluding that it is permissible under the Equal Protection Clause.
Shelby Co. Alabama v. Holder
(U.S. Supreme Court, 12-96)
Case Description: Voting Rights Act case stemming from an Alabama County's attempt to overturn the requirement of preclearance before it can change voting procedures.
NASW Supported: Holder
Date Brief Filed: 2/1/2013; Decided 6/25/2013
The case involves the constitutionality of two provisions of the Voting Rights Acts of 1965:Section 5, which requires certain states and local governments to obtain federal preclearance before implementing any changes to their voting laws or practices and Section 4(b), which contains the coverage formula that determines which jurisdictions are subjected to preclearance based on their histories of discrimination in voting. The Court struck down Section 4b of the Voting Rights Act as unconstitutional because the coverage formula is based on old data making it no longer responsive to current needs, and therefore an impermissible burden on the constitutional principles of federalism and equal sovereignty of the states.