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FRENCH v. BONER

March 2, 1992

CHARLES FRENCH, et al.
v.
BILL BONER, MAYOR, et al.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: THOMAS A. HIGGINS

 The Court has before it the motions for summary judgment of the plaintiffs (filed December 31, 1991; Docket Entry No. 54) and of the sole remaining defendant, the Metropolitan Government *fn1" (filed January 21, 1992; Docket Entry No. 58). The parties conceded in open court that there is no genuine issue as to a material fact and, therefore, that summary judgment is appropriate. Therefore, for the reasons discussed below, the Court grants the motion for summary judgment of the defendant Metropolitan Government, denies the motion for summary judgment of the plaintiffs, and dismisses the case.

 I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

 In their amended complaint, the plaintiffs sought a declaratory judgment that the Council as it existed before the August 1, 1991 election was malapportioned, and the United States Constitution required reapportionment before the August 1, 1991, election. The plaintiffs also requested that the Court either order the Council to adopt a new, properly apportioned redistricting plan, or implement its own plan before the August election. Finally, the plaintiffs requested that the Court enjoin the councilmanic elections until the Council districts are properly apportioned according to the results of the 1990 federal census. The defendants moved to dismiss the action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because the action was not ripe, and for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6).

 By order entered June 27, 1991 (Docket Entry No. 43), the Court granted the defendant's motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because the action was not ripe. The Court explained that "legislative reapportionment is primarily a matter for legislative consideration and determination, and . . . 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." Memorandum at 16 (entered June 27, 1991; Docket Entry No. 42) (quoting Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533, 586, 84 S. Ct. 1362, 1394, 12 L. Ed. 2d 506, 541 (1964)). The Court found that the defendant had not "had an 'adequate opportunity' after receiving the latest census data to adopt a new redistricting plan and failed." Memorandum at 16. Therefore, since the Supreme Court has determined that legislative districts must be reapportioned at least every ten years to avoid becoming constitutionally suspect, Reynolds, 377 U.S. at 583-84, 84 S. Ct. at 1392-93, 12 L. Ed. 2d at 539-40, this Court held that the defendant had until October 1991 to adopt a new redistricting plan. Memorandum at 16. Until then, the Court declined to predetermine whether a constitutional violation had occurred. Id.

 The Court of Appeals, also relying on Reynolds, affirmed this Court's decision to not enjoin the August 1, 1991, election. French v. Boner, 940 F.2d 659, (6th Cir. 1991) (unreported disposition). The Court of Appeals, however, concluded "that the issue of whether the impending election may be conducted, or must be enjoined, is ripe for decision," since "the necessary facts are known" which would allow the court to reach an effective decision. Id. The Court of Appeals therefore vacated this Court's order dismissing the case on ripeness grounds, and remanded the case for further consideration of the remaining issues. Id.

 II. DISCUSSION

 The plaintiffs in the seminal case of Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 82 S. Ct. 691, 7 L. Ed. 2d 663 (1962) sued under 42 U.S.C. ยงยง 1983 and 1988, alleging essentially that the 1901 Tennessee statute apportioning seats in the state General Assembly denied them "the equal protection of the laws accorded them by the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States by virtue of the debasement of their votes." Id. at 187-88, 82 S. Ct. at 694, 7 L. Ed. 2d at 668 (quoting the complaint). The district court dismissed the action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Id. The Supreme Court held that the district court had subject matter jurisdiction, and "that a justiciable cause of action is stated upon which appellants would be entitled to appropriate relief. . . ." Id. at 197-98, 82 S. Ct. at 699, 7 L. Ed. 2d at 674. The Supreme Court specifically declined "to consider what remedy would be most appropriate if appellants prevail at the trial." Id. at 198, 82 S. Ct. at 699, 7 L. Ed. 2d at 674.

 Two years later, in Reynolds, the Supreme Court was faced with the task "of determining the basic standards and stating the applicable guidelines for implementing [the] decision in Baker v. Carr." Reynolds, 377 U.S. at 559, 84 S. Ct. at 1380, 12 L. Ed. 2d at 525. Reynolds, like Baker, was a case challenging the apportionment of a state legislature. In Reynolds, the Supreme Court reaffirmed the concept of "one person, one vote" it had announced in Gray v. Sanders, 372 U.S. 368, 381, 83 S. Ct. 801, 809, 9 L. Ed. 2d 821, 830 (1963). The Court also recognized

 
that the Equal Protection Clause guarantees the opportunity for equal participation by all voters in the election of state legislators. Diluting the weight of votes because of place of residence impairs basic constitutional rights under the Fourteenth Amendment just as much as invidious discriminations based upon factors such as race or economic status.

 Reynolds, 377 U.S. at 566, 84 S. Ct. at 1384, 12 L. Ed. 2d at 529-30. The Court was aware, however, that there may exist circumstances under which the mandate of "one person, one vote" might not be achieved, but under which an apportionment scheme might still pass constitutional muster. The Court queried: "Our problem, then, is to ascertain . . . whether there are any constitutionally cognizable principles which would justify departures from the basic standard of equality among voters in the apportionment of seats in state legislatures." Id. at 561, 84 S. Ct. at 1381, 12 L. Ed. 2d at 526-27.

 The Supreme Court found just such a "constitutionally cognizable principle" in decennial reapportionment. The Court's language bears reprinting in full:

 
That the Equal Protection Clause requires that both houses of a state legislature be apportioned on a population basis does not mean that States cannot adopt some reasonable plan for periodic revision of their apportionment schemes. Decennial reapportionment appears to be a rational approach to readjustment of legislative representation in order to take into account population shifts and growth. . . . Limitations on the frequency of reapportionment are justified by the need for stability and continuity in the organization of the legislative system, although undoubtedly reapportioning no more frequently than every 10 years leads to some imbalance in the population of districts toward the end of the decennial period and also to the development of resistance to change on the part of some incumbent legislators. In substance, we do not regard the Equal Protection Clause as requiring daily, monthly, annual or biennial reapportionment, so long as a State has a reasonably conceived plan for periodic readjustment of legislative ...

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