Chin Files Amici Brief in SCOTUS Election Gerrymandering Case

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Andrew Chin
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
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

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