727 F.2d 364 (5th Cir. 1984), 83-1196, Jones v. City of Lubbock

Docket Nº:83-1196.
Citation:727 F.2d 364
Party Name:Rev. Roy JONES, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellees, v. The CITY OF LUBBOCK, et al., Defendants-Appellants.
Case Date:March 05, 1984
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
 
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727 F.2d 364 (5th Cir. 1984)

Rev. Roy JONES, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellees,

v.

The CITY OF LUBBOCK, et al., Defendants-Appellants.

No. 83-1196.

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

March 5, 1984

Rehearing and Rehearing En Banc Denied April 10, 1984.

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Travis D. Shelton, T. Dale Jones, John C. Ross, Jr., City Atty., James P. Brewster, Asst. City Atty., Lubbock, Tex., for City of Lubbock et al.

William L. Garrett, Dallas, Tex., Mark C. Hall, c/o John J. O'Shea, Albert Perez, Tomas Garza, Lubbock, Tex., Rolando L. Rios, San Antonio, Tex., for Roy Jones et al.

Lane Arthur, Lubbock, Tex., for Rose Wilson.

Daniel H. Benson, Lubbock, Tex., for plaintiffs-appellees, Roy Jones et al. and plaintiff-intervenor-appellee, Rose Wilson.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas.

Before REAVLEY, RANDALL and HIGGINBOTHAM, Circuit Judges.

RANDALL, Circuit Judge:

The City of Lubbock, Texas, appeals a judgment holding that the City's at-large system of electing members of its city council

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violated both the Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C.A. Sec. 1973 (West Supp.1983). That judgment rests on the district court's findings that the City, at least in part, adopted its electoral system as a means to discriminate against its black citizens, and that the system presently deprives the City's black and Mexican-American citizens of equal access to the electoral process. The City principally contends that the district court clearly erred in making these findings. In addition, the City challenges the constitutionality, and the lower court interpretation, of section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. Finally, the City attacks the propriety of the lower court's remedial districting plan. We affirm in part, and reverse in part.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND.

According to the 1980 census, the City of Lubbock has a population of 173,979. Of this population, 14,204, or 8.2%, are black, and 31,085, or 17.9%, are Mexican-American. For the most part, this minority population is concentrated in neighborhoods in the eastern and northeastern parts of the City. Over 75% of the black and Mexican-American population resides in these predominately minority areas. The plaintiffs and intervenors represent classes consisting of all the black and Mexican-American voters in the City of Lubbock.

Lubbock is a "home rule" city established in 1909 under Tex. Const. art. II, Sec. 5 and Tex.Civ.Stat.Ann. arts. 1165-1182 (Vernon 1963 & Supp.1982) (as amended). The present city charter, originally enacted in 1917 and amended in 1961, 1964 and 1967, provides for a mayor and a four member city council. The mayor serves a two year term and the council members serve four year terms. The terms of council members are staggered so that two council members come up for re-election every two years. Although the City is divided into voting precincts, the entire City elects the mayor and council at large. Council members need not live in any particular part of the City.

Any resident citizen of Lubbock--with exceptions not relevant here--may run for mayor or the city council by filing for candidacy at least thirty days before elections. To file for city council, a candidate must announce for a particular post on the council. At least since a charter amendment in 1964, a candidate for mayor or city council must receive a majority of votes. Where no candidate in the field attracts a majority vote, the two candidates with largest vote totals enter a run-off election.

The City has only recorded the race and ethnicity of candidates since 1970. Since that time, no black or Mexican-American candidate has run for mayor or city council successfully. Before 1970, the parties have identified only one minority candidate, and that candidate lost. Although two Mexican-Americans have represented Lubbock in elected office, one won a school district election under a plurality-vote system, and the other won an election for state representative from a single-member district that includes only a part of the City.

In 1976, the plaintiffs began this action to require the City to abandon its at-large election system. The complaint alleged that the election scheme not only had resulted in minority electoral defeat, but had also effectively denied Lubbock's black and Mexican-American voters of equal access to the political processes. This deprivation allegedly violated the fourteenth amendment, the fifteenth amendment and section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

The district court originally conducted a nonjury trial between December 18, 1978, and January 24, 1979. On June 8, 1979, the court issued a comprehensive memorandum opinion finding that the Lubbock at-large election system did not dilute the voting strength of minority voters. Although the court found a history of official discrimination, electoral rules that enhanced the opportunity to discriminate, and a general lack of success by minority candidates, the court believed that the responsiveness of the City to particularized minority needs,

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the absence of slating restrictions and the absence of any tenuous justification for the at-large system required a finding in the City's favor. The first appeal to this court ensued.

While that appeal was pending, the Supreme Court announced dramatic changes in the law of voting dilution. In City of Mobile v. Bolden, 446 U.S. 55, 100 S.Ct. 1490, 64 L.Ed.2d 47 (1980), the Supreme Court explicitly stated, for the first time, that a claim of denial of access by a minority to the political processes required a showing of a purpose to discriminate. Id. at 66-71, 100 S.Ct. at 1499-1501 (plurality opinion of Stewart, J.); accord id. at 99-101, 100 S.Ct. at 1516-1517 (White, J., dissenting). A plurality of the Justices, moreover, repudiated the then-prevailing view in this circuit that objective indicia of discrimination could establish intentional voting dilution. Id. at 72-74, 100 S.Ct. at 1502-1503 (plurality opinion of Stewart, J.) See generally Nevett v. Sides, 571 F.2d 209, 217-29 (5th Cir.1978) [hereinafter cited as Nevett II ] (intent required, but objective factors can establish intent), cert. denied, 446 U.S. 951, 100 S.Ct. 2916, 64 L.Ed.2d 807 (1980). Accordingly, we vacated the judgment and remanded to the district court. Jones v. City of Lubbock, 640 F.2d 777 (5th Cir.1981). Shortly thereafter, this court withdrew the mandate pending the outcome of another Supreme Court voting dilution case, Rogers v. Lodge, 458 U.S. 613, 102 S.Ct. 3272, 73 L.Ed.2d 1012 (1982). Although, in Rogers, the Court reaffirmed that voting dilution claims required a showing of intent, the Court upheld a finding of dilution on the basis of objective indicia of discrimination. Id. at 622-27, 102 S.Ct. at 3278-81. We then returned this case to the district court for reconsideration in light of Rogers. Jones v. City of Lubbock, 682 F.2d 504 (5th Cir.1982).

While the district court considered the case on remand, Congress worked yet another change in the law of voting dilution by amending the Voting Rights Act. In effect, Congress "overruled" 1 Bolden. The district court held further hearings on January 10-13, 1983, and, on January 20, 1983, found that the at-large scheme violated both the fifteenth amendment and section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. Although the court largely adopted its previous findings, additional evidence of polarized voting, and of the circumstances surrounding adoption of the at-large system persuaded the court both that the system had discriminatory results, and that the motives of the original charter committee that adopted the at-large system had been invidious.

The court then proposed redistricting plans, conducted oral argument and, on March 4, 1983, ordered a new plan for the City into effect. The court-ordered plan called for a six member council elected from single-member districts, and a mayor elected at large. The plan retained both the prior terms of office, and the staggered terms for council members.

II. THE PARTIES' CONTENTIONS.

The City assails the lower court's conclusions on both the constitutional and statutory issues. On the fifteenth amendment issue, the City adopts a position that is straightforward; the factual record in support of intent findings is too weak to survive review under the clearly erroneous rule. On the issue of section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, the City raises constitutional, interpretative and factual challenges. The City argues that: (1) Congress has adopted an unconstitutional standard that is too vague to enforce; (2) Congress exceeded its constitutional authority by proscribing electoral systems without a showing of intent; (3) the Act, by codifying pre-Bolden law, effectively readopts a standard of discriminatory purpose; and (4) the trial court misinterpreted section 2 by unduly

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relying on the evidence of polarized voting. Finally, on the issue of remedy, the City maintains that the court adopted a plan that artificially inflates minority voting strength and ensures disproportionate minority representation.

III. THE FIFTEENTH AMENDMENT.

The standard applicable to fifteenth amendment claims is presently unclear. Before Bolden, courts had not analyzed voting dilution claims based on the fifteenth amendment in a manner distinct from claims brought under the fourteenth amendment. 2 The plurality of the Justices in Bolden, however, suggested that the fifteenth amendment proscribed only direct interference with registration and voting. 446 U.S. at 61-65, 100 S.Ct. at 1496-1498 (plurality opinion of Stewart, J.). Thereafter, the Supreme Court explicitly indicated that the scope of the fifteenth amendment remained an open question. Rogers v. Lodge, 458 U.S. at 619...

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