A three-judge panel from the conservative Eight Circuit Court of Appeals–where only one of the 17 judges serving was nominated by someone not named Reagan, Bush or Trump–upheld a controversial ruling by a Trump-appointed judge in Eastern Arkansas that limits the legal ability of individuals and private groups to sue to uphold access to the polls under the Voting Rights Act, the Washington Post reports.
Upholding the decision of Judge Lee Rudofsky, the panel ruled that any lawsuit seeking remedy under the Voting Rights Act must be led or joined by the United States Department of Justice, which the court ruled is the only entity that can sue to enforce the Voting Rights Act.
Judge Raymond Gruender, George W. Bush appointee, joined Trump appointee David Stras’s decision, which stated that under Section 2 of the law, only the Justice Department may sue. The dissent was written by another W appointee, 8th Circuit Chief Judge Lavenski Smith who wrote that while “admittedly, the Court has never directly addressed the existence of a private right of action under [Article 2],” the court has “repeatedly considered such cases, held that private rights of action exist under other sections of the VRA, and concluded in other VRA cases that a private right of action exists under [Article 2]. Until the Court rules or Congress amends the statute, I would follow existing precedent that permits citizens to seek a judicial remedy. Rights so foundational to self-government and citizenship should not depend solely on the discretion or availability of the government’s agents for protection.”