Professor Plays Crucial Role in National Case

Professor Joaquin Avila assisted with the arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court in the Texas redistricting case, which the court ruled on June 28.

The Court rejected arguments that the 2003 congressional redistricting plan was an unconstitutional political gerrymander, but found that Congressional District 23, a congressional district encompassing a heavily concentrated Latina/o community, was modified to dilute the opportunity of the Latina/o community. Such a modification constituted a violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

“This case has national ramifications,” Avila said. “Basically, governmental entities in the redistricting of election districts cannot dismantle an election district where racial and ethnic minorities have an opportunity to elect a candidate of their choice in favor of a district that does not provide that opportunity.”

Avila served as coach to attorney Nina Perales, who was arguing on behalf of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund that represented the American GI Forum. He was the second chair attorney for the oral argument before the court.

In other activities, Avila was summoned in mid-July to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee in D.C. in support of reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act. While the Senate hearing was being conducted, the House was considering the reauthorization bill for the Voting Rights Act. The civil rights organizations launched a major grassroots campaign and were successful in securing passage of the bill in the House. Avila was commissioned by the Leadership Conference for Civil Rights to prepare a report on voting discrimination in California. The report was included as part of his written testimony.

Avila’s litigation accomplishments include two previous successful arguments before the United States Supreme Court. In the legislative arena, he spearheaded the efforts to secure the passage of the 2001 California State Voting Rights Act, the only state voting rights act in the nation.

Sullivan Hall