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

Outcome: Favorable

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

Outcome: Favorable

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

Outcome: Favorable

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

Outcome: Unfavorable

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.

Race-Conscious Undergraduate Admissions Process

Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin 


Case Description: Equal Protection challenge to the University of Texas undergraduate admissions process

NASW Supported: University of Texas at Austin

Outcome: Favorable

Date Brief Filed: 11/2/2015; Decided 6/23/2016

The case involves an Equal Protection challenge to University of Texas undergraduate race-conscious admissions process. The amicus brief highlighted the importance of racial diversity in higher education by exploring the current racial tensions in America. The U.S. Supreme Court rejected the challenge to the University of Texas at Austin admissions process and ruled that the race-conscious admissions program was lawful under the Equal Protection Clause.

Employment Discrimination

Lewis v City of Chicago

(U.S. Supreme Court, 130 S. Ct. 2191)

Case Description: Title VII employment discrimination with a disparate impact on minorities

NASW Supported: Lewis

Outcome: Favorable

Date Brief Filed: 11/30/2009; Decided 5/24/2010

The case involves a Title VII employment discrimination action based on disparate impact on minorities. The Supreme Court decided that the plaintiffs properly stated a Title VII violation when they claimed that the city caused a disparate impact on African-Americans each time it used its hiring list.

These and other amicus briefs and decisions can be found in the Legal Defense Fund (LDF) amicus brief database.

frieze on Supreme Court house

Amicus Brief Database

Find these and other amicus briefs and decisions in the Legal Defense Fund amicus brief database. NASW members only.

Visit the amicus brief database