548 U.S. 399 (2006), 05-204, League of United Latin American Citizens v. Perry

Docket Nº:Nos. 05-204, 05-254, 05-276, 05-439.
Citation:548 U.S. 399, 126 S.Ct. 2594, 165 L.Ed.2d 609
Party Name:LEAGUE OF UNITED LATIN AMERICAN CITIZENS et al., Appellants, v. Rick PERRY, Governor of Texas, et al. Travis County, Texas, et al., Appellants, v. Rick PERRY, Governor of Texas, et al. Eddie Jackson, et al., Appellants, v. Rick PERRY, Governor of Texas, et al. Gi Forum of Texas, et al., Appellants, v. Rick PERRY, Governor of Texas, et al.
Case Date:June 28, 2006
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 399

548 U.S. 399 (2006)

126 S.Ct. 2594, 165 L.Ed.2d 609



Rick PERRY, Governor of Texas, et al.

Travis County, Texas, et al., Appellants,


Rick PERRY, Governor of Texas, et al.

Eddie Jackson, et al., Appellants,


Rick PERRY, Governor of Texas, et al.

Gi Forum of Texas, et al., Appellants,


Rick PERRY, Governor of Texas, et al.

Nos. 05-204, 05-254, 05-276, 05-439.

United States Supreme Court

June 28, 2006

Argued March 1, 2006.


[126 S.Ct. 2597] Syllabus [*]

The 1990 census resulted in a 3-seat increase over the 27 seats previously allotted the Texas congressional delegation. Although the Democratic Party then controlled 19 of those 27 seats, as well as both state legislative houses and the governorship, change was in the air: The Republican Party had received 47% of the 1990 statewide vote, while the Democrats had received only 51%. Faced with a possible Republican ascent to majority status, the legislature drew a congressional redistricting plan that favored Democratic candidates. The Republicans challenged the 1991 Plan as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander, but to no avail.

[126 S.Ct. 2598] The 2000 census authorized two additional seats for the Texas delegation. The Republicans then controlled the governorship and the State Senate, but did not yet control the State House of Representatives. So constituted, the legislature was unable to pass a redistricting scheme, resulting in litigation and the necessity of a court-ordered plan to comply with the U.S. Constitution's one-person, one-vote requirement. Conscious that the primary responsibility for drawing congressional districts lies with the political branches of government, and hesitant to undo the work of one political party for the benefit of another, the three-judge Federal District Court sought to apply only "neutral" redistricting standards when drawing Plan 1151C, including placing the two new seats in high-growth areas, following county and voting precinct lines, and avoiding the pairing of incumbents. Under Plan 1151C, the 2002 congressional elections resulted in a 17-to-15 Democratic majority in the Texas delegation, compared to a 59% to 40% Republican majority in votes for statewide office in 2000, thus leaving the 1991 Democratic gerrymander largely in place.

In 2003, however, Texas Republicans gained control of both houses of the legislature and set out to increase Republican representation in the congressional delegation. After a protracted partisan struggle, the legislature

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enacted a new congressional districting map, Plan 1374C. In the 2004 congressional elections, Republicans won 21 seats to the Democrats' 11, while also obtaining 58% of the vote in statewide races against the Democrats' 41%. Soon after Plan 1374C was enacted, appellants challenged it in court, alleging a host of constitutional and statutory violations. In 2004 the District Court entered judgment for appellees, but this Court vacated the decision and remanded for consideration in light of Vieth v. Jubelirer, 541 U.S. 267, 124 S.Ct. 1769, 158 L.Ed.2d 546. On remand, the District Court, believing the scope of its mandate was limited to questions of political gerrymandering, again rejected appellants' claims.


The judgment is affirmed in part, reversed in part, and vacated in part, and the cases are remanded.

399 F.Supp.2d 756, affirmed in part, reversed in part, vacated in part, and remanded.

KENNEDY, Justice delivered the opinion of the court with respect to Parts II–A and III, concluding:

1. This Court held, in Davis v. Bandemer, 478 U.S. 109,118-127, 106 S.Ct. 2797, 92 L.Ed.2d 85, that an equal protection challenge to a political gerrymander presents a justiciable case or controversy, although it could not agree on what substantive standard to apply, compare id., at 127–137, 106 S.Ct. 2797, with id., at 161-162, 106 S.Ct. 2797. That disagreement persists. The Vieth plurality would have held such challenges nonjusticiable political questions, but a majority declined to do so, see 541 U.S., at 306, 317, 343, 355, 124 S.Ct. 1769. Justiciability is not revisited here. At issue is whether appellants offer a manageable, reliable measure of fairness for determining whether a partisan gerrymander is unconstitutional. Pp. 413-414.

2. Texas' redrawing of District 23's lines amounts to vote dilution violative of §2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Pp. 423-443.

(a) Plan 1374C's changes to District 23 served the dual goals of increasing Republican seats and protecting the incumbent Republican against an increasingly powerful Latino population that threatened to oust him, with the additional political nuance that he would be reelected in a district that had a Latino majority as to voting age population, though not a Latino [126 S.Ct. 2599] majority as to citizen voting age population or an effective Latino voting majority. The District 23 changes required adjustments elsewhere, so the State created new District 25 to avoid retrogression under §5 of the Act. Pp. 423-425.

(b) A State violates §2 "if, based on the totality of circumstances, it is shown that the political processes leading to nomination or election . . . are not [as] equally open to . . . members of [a racial group as they are to] other members of the electorate." 42 U.S.C. §1973(b). Thornburg v. Gingles, 478 U.S. 30, 50-51, 106 S.Ct. 2752, 92 L.Ed.2d 25, identified three threshold conditions

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for establishing a §2 violation: (1) the racial group must be "sufficiently large and geographically compact to constitute a majority in a single-member district"; (2) the group must be "politically cohesive"; and (3) the white majority must "vot[e] sufficiently as a bloc to enable it . . . usually to defeat the minority's preferred candidate." The legislative history identifies factors that courts can use, once all three threshold requirements are met, in interpreting §2's "totality of circumstances" standard, including the State's history of voting-related discrimination, the extent to which voting is racially polarized, and the extent to which the State has used voting practices or procedures that tend to enhance the opportunity for discrimination against the minority group. See id., at 44-45, 106 S.Ct. 2752. Another relevant consideration is whether the number of districts in which the minority group forms an effective majority is roughly proportional to its share of the population in the relevant area. Johnson v. De Grandy, 512 U.S. 997, 1000, 114 S.Ct. 2647, 129 L.Ed.2d 775. The district court's determination whether the §2 requirements are satisfied must be upheld unless clearly erroneous. See Gingles, supra, at 78-79, 106 S.Ct. 2752. Where "the ultimate finding of dilution" is based on "a misreading of the governing law," however, there is reversible error. De Grandy, supra, at 1022, 114 S.Ct. 2647. Pp. 425-427.

(c) Appellants have satisfied all three Gingles requirements as to District 23, and the creation of new District 25 does not remedy the problem.

The second and third Gingles factors—Latino cohesion, majority bloc voting—are present, given the District Court's finding of racially polarized voting in District 23 and throughout the State. As to the first Gingles precondition—that the minority group be large and compact enough to constitute a majority in a single-member district, 478 U.S., at 50, 106 S.Ct. 2752--appellants have established that Latinos could have had an opportunity district in District 23 had its lines not been altered and that they do not have one now. They constituted a majority of the citizen voting age population in District 23 under Plan 1151C. The District Court suggested incorrectly that the district was not a Latino opportunity district in 2002 simply because the incumbent prevailed. The fact that a group does not win elections does not resolve the vote dilution issue. De Grandy, 512 U.S., at 1014, n. 11, 114 S.Ct. 2647. In old District 23 the increase in Latino voter registration and overall population, the concomitant rise in Latino voting power in each successive election, the near victory of the Latino candidate of choice in 2002, and the resulting threat to the incumbent's continued election were the very reasons the State redrew the district lines. Since the redistricting prevented the immediate success of the emergent Latino majority in District 23, there was a denial of opportunity in the real sense of that term. Plan 1374C's

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version of District 23, by contrast, is unquestionably not a Latino opportunity district. That Latinos are now a bare majority of the district's voting-age population is [126 S.Ct. 2600] not dispositive, since the relevant numbers must account for citizenship in order to determine the group's opportunity to elect candidates, and Latinos do not now have a citizen voting-age majority in the district.

The State's argument that it met its §2 obligations by creating new District 25 as an offsetting opportunity district is rejected. In a district line-drawing challenge, "the first Gingles condition requires the possibility of creating more than the existing number of reasonably compact districts with a sufficiently large minority population to elect candidates of its choice." Id., at 1008, 114 S.Ct. 2647. The District Court's finding that the current plan contains six Latino opportunity districts and that seven reasonably compact districts, as proposed by appellant GI Forum, could not be drawn was not clearly erroneous. However, the court failed to perform the required compactness inquiry between the number of Latino opportunity districts under the challenger's proposal of reinstating Plan 1151C and the "existing number of reasonably compact...

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