South Carolina v. Katzenbach

(1966)

The case of South Carolina v. Katzenbach constituted the first time the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Passed in March 1965, the Voting Rights Act gave the federal government sweeping new powers to combat the pervasive disenfranchisement of African Americans perpetuated by southern government officials. Many across the South denied Congress’s power to pass such sweeping legislation. They argued that Congress had overstepped the bounds of the Fifth and Fifteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. They also objected to the act’s wider social and political objectives as a piece of civil rights legislation.

In South Carolina, the state attorney general, Daniel R. McCleod, quickly filed a bill of complaint directly with the Supreme Court attacking the constitutionality of the act and asking for an injunction against enforcement by the attorney general of the United States, Nicholas Katzenbach. McCleod challenged the Voting Rights Act as an...

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Chief justice Earl Warren (Library of Congress)

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