College of Law Professor and Students Submit Amicus Brief to U.S Supreme Court

Caption: FAMU College of Law Second-year law student Sabrina Collins (l-r); third-year law student Akunna Olumba; Associate Professor Patricia Broussard; and third-year law student Stacy Hane, display copies of an amicus brief submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court in the Shelby County, Alabama v Eric H. Holder, Jr. case. The brief was submitted in support of the Respondents.

Orlando, Fla. – Three Florida A&M University (FAMU) College of Law students assisted Associate Professor Patricia Broussard in an exercise that brought practical application to their studies in an Advanced Appellate Advocacy course. Third-year law students Stacy Hane and Akunna Olumba, and second-year law student Sabrina Collins spent part of the fall 2012 semester and winter break completing an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court for the Shelby County, Alabama v Eric H. Holder, Jr. case.

By definition, the amicus curiae is literally translated as “friend of the court” or someone who is not party to a particular case but presents information that bears on the case, but was not solicited by either party to do so. The amicus brief is commonly filed in appeals concerning matters of broad public interest, such as a civil rights case.

According to scotusblog.com, the Shelby County v Holder case has at issue whether Congress’ 2006 decision to reauthorize Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act under the pre-existing coverage formula of Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act exceeded its authority under the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments and thus violated the Tenth Amendment and Article IV of the United States Constitution.

“When this case surfaced, Professor Broussard felt this was the perfect opportunity for us to participate in the drafting of a brief, hone our skills and present a document that is professionally written of Supreme Court quality,” said Olumba.

Associate Professor Broussard, who also teaches Constitutional Law, submitted the brief in support of the Respondents, which include Eric H. Holder, Jr., in the name of the named students and organizations at the College of Law. The supporting FAMU College of Law student organizations include the Advocacy Skills Board, Student Animal Legal Defense Fund, Asian Pacific American Law Student Association, Phi Alpha Delta Fraternity, Women’s Law Caucus, and Hispanic American Law Student Association. The brief, submitted on January 17, 2013, contends that Congress drew reasonable conclusions from the extensive evidence it gathered and acted pursuant to the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, which entrust Congress with ensuring that the right to vote – surely among the most important guarantees of political liberty in the Constitution – is not abridged on account of race. The oral arguments for the case are set to be heard February 27, 2013.

The following is an excerpt statement from the brief, which summarizes the impetus behind writing the amicus curiae:

Florida A&M University College of Law is a Historically Black University (HBCU) which was reestablished by the Florida Legislature in 2000 for the primary purpose of ensuring that more minorities enter into the legal profession to the benefit of local minority communities in particular, and to the nation, generally. Thus, as students of color, their interest is two-fold. First, many students are descendants of slaves and disenfranchised African Americans, and they believe it is vitally important that they advocate that the right to vote, the main source of political empowerment in this country, be preserved, protected, and closely guarded by this Court to protect against voter intimidation, dilution of the vote, or at worst abrogation of the right to vote. These students have an inter-generational stake in protecting the right to vote which was denied so many of their ancestors. This right is grounded in morality, but more importantly, this right is constitutionally guaranteed.

Second, the students of Florida A&M University College of Law have a vested interest in protecting the United States Constitution because, as stewards of the legal system, they are bound to honor and protect the Constitution. It is their duty to serve as amici curiae in this case because they are obliged to protect the rights of those who are silenced by intimidation, by lack of funds, by disenfranchisement, and by entities who would seek to suppress their vote. The students of Florida A&M University College of Law seek to leave a legacy of social activism and have a direct stake in the outcome of this case.

The amicus brief can be read on the American Bar Association website at the following link: