A&T DIRECTOR OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE LEADS LEGAL CHALLENGE

The director of criminal justice at North Carolina A&T State University, James P. Mayes, served as attorney of record in a legal challenge to Maryland's congressional redistricting plan. The firm of Holtzman Vogel, PLLC served as co-counsel for the suit and the Legacy Foundation of Des Moines, Iowa, financially supported the action. The case was brought in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland on issues of prison gerrymandering, violations of the 1965 Voting Rights Act and violations of the United States Constitution. Mayes has been researching the issue of prison gerrymandering in Maryland and North Carolina for the past several years. In the present case, the plaintiffs were unlikely allies. African American community-based activists and Maryland Republicans joined in the suit to challenge the State of Maryland. Ironically, an array of state and national civil rights organizations supported the State's redistricting plan. Peter Wagner of the Prison Policy Initiative described the suit as "a Republican power grab." The plaintiffs, however, asserted that the State's Democratic leadership betrayed the interests of the African American community and used recent prison gerrymandering legislation to shield its true intent to minimize African American political representation. The alliance with state Republicans, they argued, is consistent with the oft quoted phrase, "no permanent friends, no permanent enemies, only permanent interests."

The case was heard before a three judge panel especially provided for in federal statutes for such voting rights cases. The court reached a decision in December 2011 and ruled against the plaintiffs on all counts. A separate concurring opinion, however, strongly supported the merits of the plaintiff's case. The case is now on appeal to the United States Supreme Court. Professor Mayes plans to lead the legal challenge the State's legislative redistricting plan. Despite the legal outcome, however, Professor Mayes asserts that the research will continue.