Son of immigrant from India hailed for securing rejection of controversial legal theory by apex court before 2024 election
Neal Katyal, a leading Indian American attorney, is being celebrated for scoring a key victory for voting rights advocates with the Supreme Court rejecting the so-called Independent State Legislature theory.
By a 6-3 judgment, the apex court on Monday rejected the controversial legal theory that state legislatures have almost unlimited power to decide the rules for federal elections and draw partisan congressional maps without interference from state courts.
US-born son of immigrant parents from India, Katyal, 53, a former acting US solicitor general won the day for the watchdog group Common Cause, by pressing the justices to reject the election theory before the 2024 election.
Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the opinion for the 6-3 majority in this case known as Moore v. Harper, which stems from a dispute in North Carolina.
The North Carolina legislators were appealing a ruling by their state supreme court finding that the new congressional map they adopted after the 2020 census was a blatant partisan gerrymander that violated the state constitution.
Even President Barack Obama, a legal scholar himself, hailed the Supreme Court decision. “Today, the Supreme Court rejected the fringe independent state legislature theory that threatened to upend our democracy and dismantle our system of checks and balances,â€ he tweeted.
â€œThis ruling rejects the far-right theory that threatened to undermine our democracy, and makes clear that courts can continue defending voters’ rightsâ€”in North Carolina and in every state,” Obama wrote.
As accolades rolled in, Katyal himself tweeted, â€œThe truth is this was the victory of an incredible group of lawyers who worked at my side day and night for months. Everything you heard was them.â€
He also commended an article in law.com â€œabout what really happened yesterday in Moore v Harper. All our supposed allies, including the Biden Administration’s Justice Dept, tried to get rid of the case, telling the Court they couldn’t decide it. We stood alone.â€
â€œWe were right. If the Court accepted those views, the nation would have never had this decision,â€ Katyal wrote.
â€œWhile most respondents urged the court to deem the appeal moot, Common Causeâ€™s attorney Neal Katyal pressed the justices to reject the election theory before next year’s election. The strategy paid off,â€ according to the author Jimmy Hoover.
â€œThe dispute over that theory must be resolved in time to prepare maps, ballots, and election rules well in advance of the 2024 elections,â€ Katyal wrote for Common Cause. â€œIt is therefore exceptionally important that the Court address the Question Presented as quickly as possible.â€
Katyal told reporters as cited by law.com he thought it was â€œpreposterousâ€ that the North Carolina Supreme Court could effectively strip the US Supreme Court of jurisdiction over a pending case by ruling in underlying litigation. That, he said, â€œwould open a terrible door for the Supreme Court in the future.â€
â€œI was quite surprised to see the other plaintiffs that were supposedly on our side agree that the North Carolina Supreme Court could do that,â€ Katyal added.
Katyal said that, in addition to feeling the mootness question was not particularly close, he was confident after oral arguments that the Supreme Court would, if it reached the merits, reject the lawmakersâ€™ election theory.
The questioning showed a majority of the court was â€œsolidly behind throwing out the independent state legislature doctrine,â€ he said.
Reviewing the courtâ€™s decision Tuesday, Katyal seemed to take a victory lap, Law.com said. â€œThis is as definitive a Supreme Court ruling as you can get,â€ he said. â€œI wasnâ€™t surprised at all. Iâ€™ve always felt that this decision should have been 6-3 or even more.â€
Vice President Kamala Harris, who leads the administrationâ€™s voting rights efforts, also championed the Supreme Court opinion while continuing to call on Congress to pass bills that support the push.
â€œVoting is the bedrock of our democracy. Todayâ€™s decision preserves state courtsâ€™ critical role in safeguarding elections and protecting the voice and the will of the American people,â€ she stated.
â€œWe know that more work must to be done to protect the fundamental right to vote and to draw fair maps that reflect the diversity of our communities and our nation.
â€œThe President and I will keep fighting to secure access to the ballot box, but we cannot do this alone. We continue to call on Congress to do their part to protect voters and our democracy and pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act,â€ Harris added.