412 U.S. 755 (1973), 72-147, White v. Regester

Docket Nº:No. 72-147
Citation:412 U.S. 755, 93 S.Ct. 2332, 37 L.Ed.2d 314
Party Name:White v. Regester
Case Date:June 18, 1973
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 755

412 U.S. 755 (1973)

93 S.Ct. 2332, 37 L.Ed.2d 314




No. 72-147

United States Supreme Court

June 18, 1973

Argued February 26, 1973




In this litigation challenging the Texas 1970 legislative reapportionment scheme, a three-judge District Court held that the House plan, state-wide, contained constitutionally impermissible deviations from population equality, and that the multi-member districts provided for Bexar and Dallas Counties invidiously discriminated against cognizable racial or ethnic groups. Though the entire plan was declared invalid, the court permitted its use for the 1972 election except for its injunction order requiring those two county multi-member districts to be reconstituted into single member districts.


1. This Court has jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1253 to consider the appeal from the injunction order applicable to the Bexar County and Dallas County districting, since the three-judge court had been properly convened, and this Court can review the declaratory part of the judgment below. Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113. Pp. 759-761.

2. State reapportionment statutes are not subject to the stricter standards applicable to congressional reapportionment under Art. I, § 2, and the District Court erred in concluding that this case, where the total maximum variation between House districts was 9.9%, but the average deviation from the ideal was 1.82%, involved invidious discrimination in violation of the Equal Protection Clause. Cf. Gaffney v. Cummings, ante, p. 735. Pp. 761-764.

3. The District Court's order requiring disestablishment of the multi-member districts in Dallas and Bexar Counties was warranted in the light of the history of political discrimination against Negroes and Mexican-Americans residing, respectively, in those counties and the residual effects of such discrimination upon those groups. Pp. 765-770.

343 F.Supp. 704, affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

WHITE, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in Parts I, III, and IV of which all Members joined, and in Part II of which BURGER, C.J., and STEWART, BLACKMUN, POWELL, and REHNQUIST,

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JJ., joined. BRENNAN, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, in which DOUGLAS and MARSHALL, JJ., joined, post, p. 772.

WHITE, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case raises two questions concerning the validity of the reapportionment plan for the Texas House of Representatives adopted in 1970 by the State Legislative Redistricting Board: First, whether there were unconstitutionally large variations in population among the districts defined by the plan; second, whether the multi-member districts provided for Bexar and Dallas Counties were properly found to have been invidiously [93 S.Ct. 2335] discriminatory against cognizable racial or ethnic groups in those counties.

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The Texas Constitution requires the state legislature to reapportion the House and Senate at its first regular session following the decennial census. Tex.Const., Art. III, § 28.1 In 1970, the legislature proceeded to reapportion the House of Representatives, but failed to agree on a redistricting plan for the Senate. Litigation

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was immediately commenced in state court challenging the constitutionality of the House reapportionment. The Texas Supreme Court held that the legislature's plan for the House violated the Texas Constitution.2 Smith v. Craddick, 471 S.W.2d 375 (1971). Meanwhile, pursuant to the requirements of the Texas Constitution, a Legislative Redistricting Board had been formed to begin the task of redistricting the Texas Senate. Although the Board initially confined its work to the reapportionment of the Senate, it was eventually ordered, in light of the judicial invalidation of the House plan, to also reapportion the House. Mauzy v. Legislative Redistricting Board, 471 S.W.2d 570 (1971).

On October 15, 1971, the Redistricting Board's plan for the reapportionment of the Senate was released, and, on October 22, 1971, the House plan was promulgated. Only the House plan remains at issue [93 S.Ct. 2336] in this case. That plan divided the 150-member body among 79 single-member and 11 multi-member districts. Four lawsuits, eventually consolidated, were filed challenging the

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Board's Senate and House plans and asserting with respect to the House plan that it contained impermissible deviations from population equality and that its multi-member districts for Bexar County and Dallas County operated to dilute the voting strength of racial and ethnic minorities.

A three-judge District Court sustained the Senate plan, but found the House plan unconstitutional. Graves v. Barnes, 343 F.Supp. 704 (WD Tex.1972). The House plan was held to contain constitutionally impermissible deviations from population equality, and the multi-member districts in Bexar and Dallas Counties were deemed constitutionally invalid. The District Court gave the Texas Legislature until July l, 1973, to reapportion the House, but the District Court permitted the Board's plan to be used for purposes of the 1972 election, except for requiring that the Dallas County and Bexar County multi-member districts be reconstituted into single member districts for the 1972 election.

Appellants appealed the state-wide invalidation of the House plan and the substitution of single member for multi-member districts in Dallas County and Bexar County.3 MR. JUSTICE POWELL denied a stay of the judgment of the District Court, 406 U.S. 1201, and we noted probable jurisdiction sub nom. Bullock v. Regester, 409 U.S. 840.


We deal at the outset with the challenge to our jurisdiction over this appeal under 28 U.S.C. § 1253, which permits injunctions in suits required to be heard and determined by a three-judge district court to be appealed

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directly to this Court.4 It is first suggested that the case was not one required to be heard by a three-judge court. The contention is frivolous. A state-wide reapportionment statute was challenged and injunctions were asked against its enforcement. The constitutional questions raised were not insubstantial on their face, and the complaint clearly called for the convening of a three-judge court. That the court declared the entire apportionment plan invalid, but entered an injunction only with respect to its implementation for the 1972 elections in Dallas and Bexar Counties, in no way indicates that the case required only a single judge. Appellants are therefore properly here on direct appeal with respect to the injunction dealing with Bexar and Dallas Counties, for the order of the court directed at those counties was literally an order "granting . . . an . . . injunction in any civil action . . . required . . . to be heard and determined by a district court of three judges" within the meaning of § 1253.

We also hold that appellants, because they appealed from the entry of an injunction, are entitled to review of the District Court's accompanying declaration that the proposed plan for the Texas House of Representatives, including those portions providing for multi-member districts in Dallas and Bexar Counties, was invalid state-wide. This declaration was the predicate for the court's order requiring Dallas and Bexar Counties to be reapportioned into single districts; for its order that,

unless the Legislature of the State of Texas on or before July 1, 1973, has adopted a plan [93 S.Ct. 2337] to reapportion the legislative districts

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within the State in accordance with the constitutional guidelines set out in this opinion this Court will so reapportion the State of Texas;

and for its order that the Secretary of State "adopt and implement any and all procedures necessary to properly effectuate the orders of this Court in conformance with this Opinion. . . ." 343 F.Supp. at 737. In these circumstances, although appellants could not have directly appealed to this Court the entry of a declaratory judgment unaccompanied by any injunctive relief, Gunn v. University Committee, 399 U.S. 383 (1970); Mitchell v. Donovan, 398 U.S. 427 (1970), we conclude that we have jurisdiction of the entire appeal. Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973); Florida Lime & Avocado Growers v. Jacobsen, 362 U.S. 73 (1960). With the Texas reapportionment plan before it, it was in the interest of judicial economy and the avoidance of piecemeal litigation that the three-judge District Court have jurisdiction over all claims raised against the statute when a substantial constitutional claim was alleged, and an appeal to us, once properly here, has the same reach. Roe v. Wade, supra, at 123; Carter v. Jury Comm'n, 396 U.S. 320 (1970); Florida Lime Avocado Growers v. Jacobsen, supra, at 80.


The reapportionment plan for the Texas House of Representatives provides for 150 representatives to be selected from 79 single member and 11 multi-member districts. The ideal district is 74,645 persons. The districts range from 71,597 to 78,943 in population per representative, or from 5.8% overrepresentation to 4.1% underrepresentation. The total variation between the largest and smallest district is thus 9.9%.5

The District Court read our prior cases to require any deviations from equal population among districts to be

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justified by "acceptable reasons" grounded in state policy; relied on Kirkpatrick v. Preisler, 394 U.S. 526 (1969), to conclude that the permissible tolerances suggested by Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533 (1964), had been substantially eroded; suggested that Abate v. Mundt, 403 U.S. 182 (1971), in accepting total deviations of 11.9% in a county reapportionment was sui generis; and considered the "critical issue" before it to be whether "the State [has] justified any and all variances, however small, on...

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