United States Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch (L) and Sonia Sotomayor (R) pictured posing for an official court photo.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday ruled in favor of state Republican Party leaders in a case nominally about a voter identification law that a lower North Carolina court previously found was passed with “racial discrimination” as a “motivating factor.”
Stylized as Berger v. NC Conference of NAACP, the case was decided in favor of GOP state legislators who argued the Tarheel State’s Democratic Attorney General was not “adequately” defending North Carolina Senate Bill 824, which requires a photo ID to vote.
“At the heart of this lawsuit lies a challenge to the constitutionality of a North Carolina election law,” Justice Neil Gorsuch notes at the outset of the 8-1 majority opinion. “But the merits of that dispute are not before us, only an antecedent question of civil procedure: Are two leaders of North Carolina’s state legislature entitled to participate in the case under the terms of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 24(a)(2)?”
The answer to that question, the majority held, is “Yes.”
Gorsuch takes a long-and-winding jurisprudential drift through: (1) the potential composition of the several states; and (2) the reality of lawsuit stylization in explaining how the result came about.
“States are free to structure themselves as they wish,” the opinion notes.
Eventually, Gorsuch gets to the heart of the matter:
Generally, States themselves are immune from suit in federal court. So usually a plaintiff will sue the individual state officials most responsible for enforcing the law in question and seek injunctive or declaratory relief against them. Despite the artifice, of course,…