Although not a lawyer, Edward Blum of South Thomaston works behind the scenes to find people to sue over racial policies and then recruits a legal team. The following are Supreme Court cases in which he has had a strong hand.
• Fisher v. Texas (heard Oct. 10; ruling expected by June). The case tests the constitutionality of a race-based affirmative action program at the University of Texas; Blum enlisted Abigail Fisher, a young white woman who was denied admission to the Austin flagship campus, to challenge the program.
• Shelby County v. Holder (accepted Nov. 9; arguments likely to be in early 2013 with a decision by June). The case challenges a key part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that requires nine states and seven municipalities, mainly in the South, to clear any proposed election changes with the U.S. Department of Justice. Blum tracked down and persuaded Shelby County officials to challenge the law known as Section 5.
• Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District No. 1 v. Holder (decided 2009). The case tested the Voting Rights Act’s screening requirement. Blum helped finance the legal representation of a small utility district in Texas protesting Section 5. The court ruled the district was eligible for an exemption from Section 5 and avoided the larger constitutional question. That was a blow to Blum’s effort to win court rejection of Section 5. He immediately sought out another entity to challenge the screening requirement, looking for a place that had faced recent Department of Justice complaints about discriminatory electoral practices so that it could not win an exemption as the utility district had; Blum’s search led to the Shelby County case.
• Bush v. Vera (decided 1996). The case challenged “majority black” and “majority Hispanic” congressional districts drawn by Texas officials as part of a broader federal effort in the early 1990s to enhance the voting power of minorities; Blum, one of six plaintiffs, brought the lawsuit after he ran for the U.S. House of Representatives unsuccessfully in a Houston area district; he said he realized as he walked the district talking to voters that its boundaries were highly irregular to sweep in as many blacks as possible. Blum and the other plaintiffs said the districts violated constitutional equality principles. Blum lost his election but won the court case. The justices ruled that Texas officials wrongly used race as a leading factor in drawing lines and they ordered districts recrafted. Blum did not run again but rather began seeking out other voters and candidates to challenge so-called “majority-minority” districts elsewhere.