Law School Case Brief
South Carolina v. Katzenbach - 383 U.S. 301, 86 S. Ct. 803 (1966)
The word "person" in the context of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment cannot, by any reasonable mode of interpretation, be expanded to encompass the States of the Union.
By leave of the Court, South Carolina filed in the United States Supreme Court a bill of complaint, seeking a declaration that selected provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 violated the Federal Constitution, and asking for an injunction against enforcement of these provisions by the Attorney General of the United States. More specifically, South Carolina and five other states supporting her attacked provisions for suspension of literacy and other voting tests (4(a)(c)(d)) in states and political subdivisions to which according to the formula described in 4(b) the new remedies of the Act apply; for termination of coverage (4(a)); for the suspension of all new voting regulations in these states and political subdivisions pending review by federal authorities to determine whether their use would perpetuate voting discrimination (5); for the assignment of federal examiners by the Attorney General to list qualified applicants thereafter entitled to vote in all elections (6(b), 7, 9, 13(a)); and for the exclusive jurisdiction of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia over litigation as to termination of the statutory coverage (14(b)).
Do selected provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 violate the Federal Constitution?
The Court found that Congress was justified in limiting the operation of the Act through the use of a formula to only a handful of states because the record indicated that actual voter discrimination occurred in these states. The Court found that the temporary suspension of voter qualifications, such as literacy tests, were not unconstitutional because the record indicated that such tests were traditionally used to disenfranchise minorities and their suspension was a legitimate response to the problem. The Court found that the suspension of new voter qualifications pending review was constitutional because the record indicated that states often enacted new laws to perpetuate discrimination in the face of adverse federal court decrees.
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