Latasha Holloway v. City of Virginia Beach, No. 21-1533 (4th Cir. 2022)Annotate this Case
Plaintiffs sued the City of Virginia Beach and several local officials, claiming that the City’s exclusive use of at-large voting to elect members of its City Council diluted the votes of minority voters in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Before the district court ruled on that claim, however, Virginia’s General Assembly passed a law eliminating at-large voting for most of the seats on the City Council. Even so, the district court held, that the case was not moot, the City’s old all-at-large electoral system violated Section 2, and the plaintiffs were entitled to an injunction remedying that violation going forward.
The Fourth Circuit vacated the district court’s decision concluding that the district court erred in reaching the merits. The General Assembly’s action left Plaintiffs challenging – and the district court assessing – an electoral system that no longer governs elections in Virginia Beach. The court explained that HB 2198 prevented the City from conducting any future City Council elections under the electoral system that Plaintiffs challenged, and other aspects of state and local law precluded the City from returning unilaterally to its old ways. Under those circumstances, Plaintiffs’ challenge is moot, and the district court lacked jurisdiction to consider its merits.
However, because Plaintiffs may have residual claims against the City’s new method for electing its Council, the district court may consider on remand whether Plaintiffs should be granted leave to amend their complaint, or develop the record more fully, to bring any new challenges as part of this proceeding.