The Supreme Court said Monday that it won’t hear an appeal from lawyers representing Shelby County, Alabama, who tried to recover $2 million in attorney fees from the U.S. government in a case that nullified a key part of the Voting Rights Act. Shelby County prevailed in 2013 when the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to eliminate the Justice Department’s ability to stop potentially discriminatory voting laws before they take effect. The county had challenged the constitutionality of a section of the Voting Rights Act that required jurisdictions with a history of discriminatory voting practices to get preclearance from the federal government before changing local voting protocol.
The Supreme Court struck down the provision, saying the preclearance criteria was based on outdated discriminatory practices and hadn’t been updated to reflect shifting social and political needs despite having been reauthorized several times by Congress. Justices also said the provision and its impact weren’t being applied equally.
Shelby County argued that winning the case allowed it to recover attorney fees. However, a federal appeals court said in September that Congress was not trying to encourage litigation “to neuter the act’s central tool” and parties are entitled to fees when successful litigation advances the goals of Congress.