612 F.2d 208 (5th Cir. 1980), 77-3089, Voter Information Project, Inc. v. City of Baton Rouge

Docket Nº:77-3089, 77-3090.
Citation:612 F.2d 208
Party Name:VOTER INFORMATION PROJECT, INC. and Robert C. Williams, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. CITY OF BATON ROUGE et al., Defendants-Appellees. Robert Judge EAMES and Voter Information Project, Inc., Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. Edwin W. EDWARDS, Governor of the State of Louisiana et al., Defendants-Appellees.
Case Date:February 21, 1980
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
 
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Page 208

612 F.2d 208 (5th Cir. 1980)

VOTER INFORMATION PROJECT, INC. and Robert C. Williams,

Plaintiffs-Appellants,

v.

CITY OF BATON ROUGE et al., Defendants-Appellees.

Robert Judge EAMES and Voter Information Project, Inc.,

Plaintiffs-Appellants,

v.

Edwin W. EDWARDS, Governor of the State of Louisiana et al.,

Defendants-Appellees.

Nos. 77-3089, 77-3090.

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

February 21, 1980

Page 209

Murphy W. Bell, Nelson D. Taylor, Robert C. Williams, Baton Rouge, La., for plaintiffs-appellants.

Frank J. Gremillion, Baton Rouge, La., for defendants-appellees.

Joseph F. Keogh, Baton Rouge, La., for Bd. of Supervisors, et al.

Larry S. Bankston, Baton Rouge, La., for Lacaze & Demo. Exec. Comm.

Carmack M. Blackmon, Asst. Atty. Gen., Tommy D. Teague, Staff Atty., William J. Guste, Jr., Atty. Gen., Baton Rouge, La., for Edwards, et al.

Appeals from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana.

Before JONES, BROWN and RUBIN, Circuit Judges.

JOHN R. BROWN, Circuit Judge:

These two consolidated cases raise constitutional challenges under 42 U.S.C.A. § 1983 to the at-large schemes of electing City Judges in Baton Rouge and State Judges in East Baton Rouge Parish. Plaintiffs 1 allege that these election systems invidiously dilute the voting strength of black persons residing in Baton Rouge and East Baton Rouge Parish in violation of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution. The District Court dismissed each of the actions under F.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. We reverse and remand for further proceedings.

I.

The two election schemes under attack are very similar in structure. The City Court of Baton Rouge, Louisiana has three Judges. All three are elected by popular vote, with each candidate running for a particular division, designated "A", "B",

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and "C". A candidate must select one division in which to run, and each voter in the City votes for a Judge for each division. All three Judges serve the entire City. Similarly, candidates for State Court Judge of the 19th Judicial District Court of East Baton Rouge Parish run by divisions 13 in all designated "A" through "M". Each candidate selects one division in which to run, each voter in the Parish votes for a candidate for each division, and each Judge elected for a division serves the entire 19th Judicial District.

No black person has ever been elected to the Baton Rouge City Court or to the 19th Judicial District Court of East Baton Rouge Parish. And according to the 1970 U.S. Census, black citizens make up well over 25% Of the population of the City of Baton Rouge and East Baton Rouge Parish. Most of the black citizens are concentrated in a small number of geographical areas of the City and Parish.

II.

It is well-established that a complaint should not be dismissed under F.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim "unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 78 S.Ct. 99, 102, 2 L.Ed.2d 80, 84 (1957). See also Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319, 322, 92 S.Ct. 1079, 1081, 31 L.Ed.2d 263, 268 (1972); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21, 92 S.Ct. 594, 595-596, 30 L.Ed.2d 652, 654 (1972). And for purposes of a motion to dismiss, material allegations of the complaint are taken as admitted, Jenkins v. McKeithen, 395 U.S. 411, 421, 89 S.Ct. 1843, 1848, 23 L.Ed.2d 404, 416 (1969), and the complaint is to be liberally construed in favor of the plaintiff. Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236, 94 S.Ct. 1683, 1686, 40 L.Ed.2d 90, 96 (1974). Because of these principles, "dismissal of a claim . . . on the basis of the barebone pleadings is a precarious one with a high mortality rate." Barber v. M/V "Blue Cat", 372 F.2d 626, 627, 1969 A.M.C. 211, 212 (5th...

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