Professor Andrew Chin
At a time when North Carolina’s own redistricting efforts
are coming under intense scrutiny from the federal courts, UNC School of Law
Professor Andrew Chin has filed an amici brief in a gerrymandering case in Wisconsin headed to the
U.S. Supreme Court next month.
The brief advocates for the upholding of the factual
findings underlying a Wisconsin federal district court’s conclusion in Gill
v. Whitford that the state legislature
unconstitutionally drew assembly districts to benefit Republicans.
The 2011 redistricting of the Wisconsin state legislature,
known as Act 43, was a computer-intensive process that left behind scientific
and statistical evidence of partisan gerrymandering, the brief argues. Technology has made it
easy to pursue partisan advantage without departing from traditional
districting criteria such as compactness, contiguity, and preservation of
county and city boundaries. Courts can and should look to decision science and
supercomputing as sources of analytical tools for the adjudication of partisan
gerrymandering claims, the brief explains.
“Our brief shows that the district court drew proper
inferences from this evidence in reaching its conclusions about Act 43’s partisan
effects and its lack of a legitimate justification,” Chin says. “So, the
Supreme Court shouldn’t be able to disturb the district court’s main findings
without overturning a great deal of settled precedent.”
Forty-four scholars from across the country, including Chin,
a computer law expert who teaches in antitrust, intellectual property and
patent law, signed the brief. As “friends of the court,” supporters of the brief explain they have a
professional interest in seeing that the law develops in a way that encourages
methodologically sound practices.
“The trial in this case was essentially a battle of the
experts before a three-judge panel, and now the Supreme Court is embarking on
an appellate review of the panel’s fact finding,” Chin says. “In writing the
brief, I sensed that other scholars who have thought rigorously about the
validity of inferences drawn from scientific and statistical evidence might
have an interest in how the court goes about that review."
Graeme Earle 2L
Carolina Law student Graeme Earle 2L worked with Chin on the brief.
"I’m indebted to
innumerable people who have helped me in various ways since I embarked on this
project in April, but none more than my gifted and tireless research assistant Graeme Earle," Chin says. "His insights and contributions are reflected throughout the final brief."
Chin's brief is one of several calling the court’s attention to the many available tools for helping the law keep up with the technology of gerrymandering.
“By embracing these analytical tools, a forward-looking
decision in Gill will empower the public to detect and prevent
legislative gerrymandering efforts in real time, without the need to go to
court,” Chin says.
-September 5, 2017