It’s difficult to exaggerate the prominence Stanford Law Professor Pam Karlan enjoys within the progressive legal community. Karlan is one of the most active members of the Supreme Court bar — among other things, she co-authored the brief that convinced the justices to strike down the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act last June. She is a former litigator for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and she is among the most widely regarded voting rights experts in the nation. If President Obama had shown more courage in the early years of his presidency, or if Senate Democrats had deployed the nuclear option sooner, she would be a federal appellate judge today. Many Court watchers, including myself, would choose her if we could place only one person on the Supreme Court.
So when the Justice Department revealed on Friday that Karlan would become the nation’s top voting rights attorney, it was as if Marsellus Wallace called up the many voters being disenfranchised in states like Texas and North Carolina, and told them that he’s sending The Wolf.
Karlan will take over as Deputy Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Civil Rights Division’s voting rights section. In this role, she will oversee the Justice Department’s most important challenges to voter suppression laws — including its efforts to restore federal oversight of Texas’ election law and its challenge to the nation’s worst voter suppression law in North Carolina.
As a senior member of the Civil Rights Division, Karlan will work under soon-to-be Assistant Attorney General Debo Adegbile, who President Obama recently nominated as the nation’s top civil rights attorney. Like Karlan, Adegbile is himself a leading expert on voting rights law – indeed, he twice appeared before the Supreme Court to try to save the Voting Rights Act from the Court’s conservative majority.