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Carl: “By all means” it is okay for Alabama to defy federal court orders

During an event Wednesday, APR asked Carl if it was okay for Alabama to disobey federal court orders. Carl responded: “by all means.”

Congressman Jerry Carl speaks to the Alabama League of Municipalities. Patrick Darrington/APR
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During an event Wednesday APR asked U.S. Rep. Jerry Carl, R-Mobile, if it was okay for Alabama to disobey federal court orders and Carl responded saying, “by all means.”

Carl was a guest speaker at an Alabama League of Municipalities event and discussed several topics including Space Command, his role on Appropriations, municipalities and redistricting. 

In June the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Allen v. Milligan, that Alabama’s 2021 congressional map likely violated the Voting Rights Act because it diluted Black voting power. In their decision the Supreme Court backed up a federal court’s prior ruling that Alabama had to redraw their maps to include two majority Black districts or something “close to it.” Because of this decision the Alabama Legislature convened a special session to redraw the maps in July.

Carl stated that, “our House members and our Senate members in the state did a fantastic job drawing a map.” However, the map that was drawn did not meet the mandate of the court to include two majority Black districts or something close. The Republican supermajority devised a map that only included one Black majority district but this district was already majority Black and they reduced the percentage from 55 to 51 percent.

The district with the next highest percentage of Black voting age population was only about 42 percent.

APR asked Carl if he thought the legislature did a good job since the map is in defiance of a court order and Carl responded saying the issue is that the court said the map had to be “leaning” but no one knows what that means. 

“The order was never majority… leaning,” Carl said. “What’s leaning? Is leaning 35, 40, 45? That’s the real rub here is no one knows what that really means.”

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Carl said the media has been saying it’s about a majority but the congressman said it was never about majority but rather, “leaning with a chance of winning.”

APR responded asking why didn’t the legislature just draw two majority Black districts anyways. Carl said, “Okay, that’s what they’re trying to do,” but APR responded saying they did not, since the legislature already had the chance to create two majority Black districts.

In a recent report by Alabama Daily News, last Saturday during a meeting multiple high ranking ALGOP officials discussed the redistricting issue and how a district court’s ruling on the map could affect their political power. Or in other words how a fairly drawn map, would affect their political power.

“But they did what they felt best…it’s the state’s job to make that decision not the federal government,” Carl said.

APR then asked Carl if he was saying it is okay for Alabama to disobey a federal court’s order and Carl said, “by all means.”

“This is the state’s job, they’re following the laws that are setup,” Carl said. “The federal court is talking about leaning.” APR also asked if Carl was saying it is okay to disobey the Supreme Court but he dodged the question.

Carl’s statements fall in line with a previous report by APR that the ALGOP is deliberately defying court orders to get a case before the Supreme Court in hopes of gutting Section 2 of the VRA. Just this Monday, a three-judge panel held a hearing to discuss the validity of Alabama’s redrawn map. During that hearing one of the judges said, “What I’m hearing is the state of Alabama deliberately chose to disregard the court.” 

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Alabama has a history of disobeying federal court and Supreme Court orders, however. George Epps wrote in the Washington Monthly on Aug.14, about Alabama Gov. George Wallace’s refusal to end segregation following the Supreme Court’s landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision and a federal court ordering that the University of Alabama admit two Black students into the school.

On June 11, 1963, Wallace stood at the front of an auditorium at the University of Alabama to block the two Black students, James Hood and Vivian Malone, from entering the school. In his inaugural speech Wallace professed there would be, “segregation now … segregation tomorrow … segregation forever.” Wallace would soon step aside and allow the two students to enter after National Guard troops, mobilized by federal order by President John F. Kennedy, asked the governor to step our of the doorway.

According to Epps, Alabama’s current refusal to disobey court orders is just taking on the, “old Wallace trick.”

“The state is now up to the old Wallace trick—and then some,” Epps said. “By balking at producing a redistricting plan that can pass judicial muster, its legislature has refused to comply with a district court order and a Supreme Court Voting Rights Act decision in what may be a foretaste of future crises on the left and right.”

Epps also mentioned the more historically recent actions of former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore deliberately disobeying the Supreme Court, twice. 

By the accounts of Carl and the actions of the ALGOP today, the professed law and order party appears to be taking on this historical tradition and explicitly stating that the law does not apply to them if it impedes their political power.

Patrick Darrington is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected].

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