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UPHAM ET AL. v. SEAMON ET AL.

decided: April 1, 1982.

UPHAM ET AL
v.
SEAMON ET AL.



ON APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS.

Author: Per Curiam

[ 456 U.S. Page 38]

After the 1980 census, Texas' congressional delegation increased from 24 to 27 members. A reapportionment plan, Senate Bill No. 1 (SB1), was enacted on August 14, 1981, and then submitted to the Attorney General for preclearance. While it was pending before him, suit was filed in the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Texas challenging the constitutionality of SB1 and its validity under § 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, 79 Stat. 437, as amended, 42 U. S. C. § 1973. A three-judge court was empaneled, held a hearing, and delayed any further action until after the Attorney General acted. On January 29, 1982, the Attorney General entered an objection to SB1. Specifically, he objected to the lines drawn for two contiguous districts in south Texas, Districts 15 and 27.*fn1 He stated that the State "has satisfied its burden of demonstrating that the submitted plan is nondiscriminatory in purpose and effect" with respect to the other 25 districts. In the face of this objection, which made SB1 unenforceable, and the obvious unconstitutionality of the prior apportionment plan,*fn2 the court ordered the parties to provide written submissions along with maps, plats, and other data to aid the court in reaching a court-ordered reapportionment plan. A hearing was held on February 9. The court then proceeded to resolve the Attorney General's objection to Districts 15 and 27. 536 F.Supp. 931. All other districts of the court's plan, except for those in Dallas County, were identical to those of SB1. The court devised its own districts for Dallas County, and it is that part of the District Court's judgment that is on appeal here. A stay and expedited consideration are requested.

[ 456 U.S. Page 39]

     Judge Sam Johnson and Judge Justice wrote separately, but agreed that SB1's plan for Dallas County could not be implemented.*fn3 Judge Justice alone determined that the SB1 plan for Dallas County was unconstitutional. In Judge Johnson's view, since SB1 was a nullity, the entire plan had to be a court-ordered plan which must conform to § 5, 42 U. S. C. § 1973c, standards, including the "no retrogression rule" of Beer v. United States, 425 U.S. 130 (1976). However, he thought that in two respects the standards applicable to court-ordered plans were stricter than those that must be observed by a legislature: population equality and racial fairness. Judicial application of the no retrogression standard, in his view, is limited to consideration of purely numerical factors; unlike a legislature, a court cannot consider the "innumerable political factors that may affect a minority group's access to the political process." 536 F.Supp. at 948. Although a court must defer to legislative judgments on reapportionment as much as possible, it is forbidden to do so when the legislative plan would not meet the special standards of population equality and racial fairness that are applicable to court-ordered plans.

SB1's treatment of Dallas County failed to meet the test of racial fairness for a court-ordered plan. Under SB1, minority strength in District 5, in Dallas County, would have gone from 29.1 percent to 12.1 percent. Apparently, the minority votes had been shifted to District 24, which increased in minority population from 37.4 percent to 63.8 percent. Judge Johnson reasoned that this change would reduce minority effectiveness in District 5 substantially and would not guarantee a "safe" seat in District 24. This "would result in a severe retrogression in the Dallas County area." Id., at 957, n. 39. He specifically recognized that SB1's plans for Dallas County had been formulated in response to the interests expressed by minority voters in creating a "safe" seat. He did not hold this legislative response to be unconstitutional, nor did he

[ 456 U.S. Page 40]

     criticize it as inconsistent with § 5 as it applied to legislative redistricting. A court, however, could not, in his view, consider the same factors as a legislature.*fn4 The court, therefore, redrew the boundaries of Districts 5 and 24, and the two adjoining Districts, 3 and 26. Under the court-ordered plan, District 5 would have a minority population of 31.87 percent and District 24 would have 45.7 percent.

 Appellants, who are Republican Party officials in Texas, contend that the District Court simply substituted its own reapportionment preferences for those of the state legislature and that this is inconsistent with Wise v. Lipscomb, 437 U.S. 535 (1978); McDaniel v. Sanchez, 452 U.S. 130 (1981); and White v. Weiser, 412 U.S. 783 (1973).*fn5 They argue that in the absence of any objection to the Dallas County districts by the Attorney General, and in the absence of any finding of a constitutional or statutory violation with respect to those districts, a court must defer to the legislative judgments the

[ 456 U.S. Page 41]

     plans reflect, even under circumstances in which a court order is required to effect an interim legislative apportionment plan.*fn6 We agree and, therefore, summarily reverse.

The relevant principles that govern federal district courts in reapportionment cases are well established:

"From the beginning, we have recognized that 'reapportionment is primarily a matter for legislative consideration and determination, and that judicial relief becomes appropriate only when a legislature fails to reapportion according to federal constitutional requisites in a timely fashion after having had an adequate opportunity to do so.' We have adhered to the view that state legislatures have 'primary jurisdiction' over legislative reapportionment. . . . Just as a federal district court, in the context of legislative reapportionment, should follow the policies and preferences of the State, as expressed in statutory and constitutional provisions or in the reapportionment plans proposed by the state legislature, whenever adherence to state policy does not detract from the requirements of the Federal Constitution, we hold that a district ...


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