Document Type

Article

Abstract

In Chisom and Houston Lawyers' Association, the Court declined to address two substantive issues critical for pending and future litigation challenging the at-large election of state judges. The Court expressly stated that it would not decide the elements that must be proved to establish a violation of section 2 or the remedy that would be appropriate for a violation proven in the context of a judicial election. Part II will discuss the Chisom and Houston Lawyers' Association decisions. Analysis of these decisions, combined with a review of the legislative history, supports the Court's view of the amended section 2. In fact, there was no direct or indirect suggestion at any point in the extensive legislative history that Congress intended to exclude judicial elections from the coverage of section 2. Part III will address the liability issue left unanswered by the court. To determine whether the at-large election of judges violates section 2, the courts should apply the standards developed in Thornburg v. Gingles. The Gingles Court concluded that three threshold questions were critical to a challenge of an at-large election system. In order to prevail in a vote dilution case, plaintiffs were required to demonstrate that the minority population was geographically concentrated, politically cohesive, and that racial bloc voting existed in the jurisdiction. Additionally, the courts should utilize the factors identified in the Senate Judiciary Committee's report that accompanied the amendments to section 2. In Part IV, alternatives to at-large election systems will be examined to determine the appropriate remedy where a state's judicial election system violates section 2. Traditionally, the courts have remedied at-large election violations by creating smaller subdistricts where minority group members constitute a majority of the district. The article concludes that the courts should review at-large judicial systems utilizing the same criteria that have been developed in vote dilution challenges to other at-large election systems. Similarly, the remedial measures that have been employed to correct violations of section 2 in challenges to other at-large election systems should be equally applicable in the judicial context.