466 U.S. 48 (1984), 82-1295, Escambia County v. McMillan

Docket Nº:No. 82-1295
Citation:466 U.S. 48, 104 S.Ct. 1577, 80 L.Ed.2d 36
Party Name:Escambia County v. McMillan
Case Date:March 27, 1984
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
FREE EXCERPT

Page 48

466 U.S. 48 (1984)

104 S.Ct. 1577, 80 L.Ed.2d 36

Escambia County

v.

McMillan

No. 82-1295

United States Supreme Court

March 27, 1984

Argued January 10, 1984

APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR

THE FIFTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

Appellee black voters of Escambia County, Fla., filed suit in Federal District Court, alleging that the at-large system for electing County Commissioners, by diluting appellees' voting strength, violated various federal constitutional and statutory provisions. The court entered judgment for appellees, holding that the election system violated, inter alia, the Fourteenth Amendment and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The Court of Appeals affirmed on the ground that the election system violated the Fourteenth Amendment, but did not review the District Court's conclusion as to the violation of the Voting Rights Act. This appeal presented the question whether the evidence of discriminatory intent in the record was adequate to support the District Court's finding that the at-large system violated the Fourteenth Amendment.

Held: Normally, this Court will not decide a constitutional question if there is some other ground upon which to dispose of the case. The parties have not briefed the question whether the Voting Rights Act provided grounds for affirmance of the District Court's judgment, and, in any event, the question should be decided in the first instance by the Court of Appeals. Therefore, the proper course is to vacate the Court of Appeals' judgment and remand the case to that court for consideration of the statutory question.

688 F.2d 960, vacated and remanded.

Page 49

Per curiam opinion.

PER CURIAM.

This appeal presents questions as to the appropriate standards of proof and appropriate remedy in suits that allege a violation of voting rights secured by the Fourteenth Amendment. We do not reach these questions, however, as it appears that the judgment under review may rest alternatively upon a statutory ground of decision.

I

Appellees, black voters of Escambia County, Fla., filed suit in the District Court, alleging that the at-large system for electing the five members of the Board of County Commissioners violated appellees' rights under the First, Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments, the Civil Rights Act of 1957, 71 Stat. 637, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 1971(a)(1), and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, 79 Stat. 437, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 1973.1 Appellees contended that the at-large system operated to "dilute" [104 S.Ct. 1578] their voting strength. See, e.g., Rogers v. Lodge, 458 U.S. 613, 616-617 (1982).

The District Court entered judgment for appellees. That court found that the at-large system used by the county discriminated against black voters and had been retained at least in part for discriminatory purposes. The court concluded that the system violated appellees' rights under the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments and the Voting Rights Act. The District Court ordered that the five commissioners be elected from single-member districts.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court's judgment, concluding that the at-large election system violated the Fourteenth Amendment, and that the...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP