387 U.S. 97 (1967), 624, Moody v. Flowers

Docket Nº:No. 624
Citation:387 U.S. 97, 87 S.Ct. 1544, 18 L.Ed.2d 643
Party Name:Moody v. Flowers
Case Date:May 22, 1967
Court:United States Supreme Court

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387 U.S. 97 (1967)

87 S.Ct. 1544, 18 L.Ed.2d 643




No. 624

United States Supreme Court

May 22, 1967

Argued April 17-18, 1967




These cases involve attacks on state statutes on the ground that they cause malapportionment in the establishment of local units governed by elected bodies. In No. 624, appellants sued state officers and others seeking to enjoin enforcement of an Alabama statute which prescribes the apportionment and districting scheme for electing members of Houston County's governing board and allegedly causes overrepresentation of certain areas and underrepresentation of others. In No. 491, appellees sued the members of the Suffolk County Board of Supervisors seeking to enjoin enforcement of county charter provisions specifying that the County's governing board shall be composed of the supervisors of its 10 towns (which vary in population) each of whom shall have one vote. In both cases, three-judge district courts were convened under 28 U.S.C. § 2281, which requires a three-judge court where an injunction is sought to restrain the operation of a state statute. From the dismissal of the complaint in No. 624, and the judgment invalidating on equal protection grounds the statute in No. 491, appeals were taken.


1. The "statute" in each of these cases is one of limited application concerning only a particular county; hence a three-judge court was improperly convened under 28 U.S.C. § 2281, and each appeal should have been taken to the appropriate Court of Appeals, not to this Court. Pp. 101-104.

(a) The purpose of § 2281 is to prevent a single judge from paralyzing an entire regulatory scheme on a statewide basis by issuing a broad injunction order. P. 101.

(b) Section 2281 does not apply to local ordinances or resolutions, such as those involved in these cases or operate against state officers like those here who perform matters of only local concern. Pp. 101-102.

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(c) A local device, like the one in No. 624, does not assume statewide significance for purposes of determining three-judge court jurisdiction because other local devices may work toward the same end. P. 102.

(d) The county charter, in No. 491, is similar to a local ordinance, and its character is not changed because it is enacted into state law. Though the alleged malapportionment reflected in that charter is also reflected in other statutory provisions having statewide application, the complaint challenged and the three-judge court considered only the charter, and not statewide law. Pp. 102-104.

2. Since the time for perfecting appeals to the respective Courts of Appeal may have passed, the judgments are vacated and remanded for the entry of fresh decrees to facilitate timely appeals. P. 104.

No. 624, 256 F.Supp. 195, and No. 491, 256 F.Supp. 617, vacated and remanded.

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DOUGLAS, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS delivered the opinion of the Court.

The threshold question in these cases is whether this Court has jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1253 on direct appeals from the decisions of the respective District Courts purportedly convened pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 2281. The answer to that question in turn depends upon whether the three-judge courts in these cases were properly convened.

In No. 624, appellants attack the validity of an Alabama statute (Ala.Laws [87 S.Ct. 1547] 1957, Act No. 9, p. 30) prescribing the apportionment and districting scheme for electing members of the Houston County Board of Revenue and Control. Under the statute, the Board consists of five members, each elected by the qualified electors of the district of which he is a resident. The challenged statute prescribes the areas constituting the various districts. The action is brought against the appellees, including some state officials, seeking a declaration that the statute is invalid and an injunction prohibiting its enforcement, and requesting that the court order at-large elections until the State Legislature redistricts and reapportions the Board on a population basis. The theory is that the apportionment and districting scheme results in the overrepresentation of certain areas and the underrepresentation of others. The complaint also requested

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the convening of a three-judge court. A three-judge court was convened and the complaint was dismissed. 256 F.Supp. 195. We noted probable jurisdiction, 385 U.S. 966.

In No. 491, appellees brought an action against appellants, members of the Suffolk County Board of Supervisors, seeking a declaration that so much of § 203 of the Suffolk County Charter (N.Y.Laws 1958, c. 278) as provides that each supervisor shall have one vote as a member of the Suffolk County Board of Supervisors violates the Fourteenth Amendment and an injunction prohibiting the appellants from acting as a Board of Supervisors unless and until a change in their voting strength is made, and requesting the convening of a three-judge court. The 10 towns of Suffolk County, New York, elect, by popular vote, a supervisor every two years. The supervisor is the town's representative on the Suffolk County Board of Supervisors. Suffolk County Charter § 201. And, each supervisor is entitled to one vote on the County Board of Supervisors. Suffolk County Charter § 203. Pursuant to Art. 9, §§ 1 and 2, of the New York Constitution, the State Legislature approved a charter for the county containing, inter alia, the above provisions. N.Y.Laws 1958, c. 278.

Appellees claim that granting each supervisor one vote regardless of the population of the town which elected him results in an overrepresentation of the towns with small populations and underrepresentation of towns with large populations.

A three-judge court was convened and it declared § 203 of the Suffolk County Charter...

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