Baker v. Carr, No. 6

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtBRENNAN
Citation7 L.Ed.2d 663,82 S.Ct. 691,369 U.S. 186
Decision Date26 March 1962
Docket NumberNo. 6
PartiesCharles W. BAKER et al., Appellants, v. Joe C. CARR et al. Re

369 U.S. 186
82 S.Ct. 691
7 L.Ed.2d 663
Charles W. BAKER et al., Appellants,

v.

Joe C. CARR et al.

No. 6.
Reargued Oct. 9, 1961.
Decided March 26, 1962.

Charles S. Rhyne, Washington, D.C., and Z. T. Osborn, Jr., Nashville, Tenn., for appellants.

Page 187

Jack Wilson, Chattanooga, Tenn., for appellees.

Solicitor General Archibald Cox, Washington, D.C., for the United States, as amicus curiae, by special leave of Court.

Mr. Justice BRENNAN delivered the opinion of the Court.

This civil action was brought under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1988, 42 U.S.C.A. §§ 1983, 1988 to redress the alleged deprivation of federal constitutional rights. The complaint, alleging that by means of a 1901 statute of Tennessee apportioning the members of the General Assembly among the State's 95 counties, 1 'these plaintiffs and others similarly situated,

Page 188

are denied the equal protection of the laws accorded them by the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States by virtue of the debasement of their votes,' was dismissed by a three-judge court convened under 28 U.S.C. § 2281, 28 U.S.C.A. § 2281 in the Middle District of Tennessee.2 The court held that it lacked jurisdiction of the subject matter and also that no claim was stated upon which relief could be granted. 179 F.Supp. 824. We noted probable jurisdiction of the appeal. 364 U.S. 898, 81 S.Ct. 230, 5 L.Ed.2d 193.3 We hold that the dismissal was error, and remand the cause to the District Court for trial and further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

The General Assembly of Tennessee consists of the Senate with 33 members and the House of Representatives with 99 members. The Tennessee Constitution provides in Art. II as follows:

'Sec. 3. Legislative authority—Term of office.—The Legislative authority of this State shall be vested in a General Assembly, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives, both dependent on the people; who shall hold their offices for two years from the day of the general election.

'Sec. 4. Census.—An enumeration of the qualified voters, and an apportionment of the Representatives in the General Assembly, shall be made in the year one thousand eight hundred and seventy-one, and within every subsequent term of ten years.

'Sec. 5. Apportionment of representatives.—The number of Representatives shall, at the several

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periods of making the enumeration, be apportioned among the several counties or districts, according to the number of qualified voters in each; and shall not exceed seventy-five, until the population of the State shall be one million and a half, and shall never exceed ninety-nine; Provided, that any county having two-thirds of the ratio shall be entitled to one member.

'Sec 6. Apportionment of senators.—The number of Senators shall, at the several periods of making the enumeration, be apportioned among the several counties or districts according to the number of qualified electors in each, and shall not exceed one-third the number of representatives. In apportioning the Senators among the different counties, the fraction that may be lost by any county or counties, in the apportionment of members to the House of Representatives, shall be made up to such county or counties in the Senate, as near as may be practicable. When a district is composed of two or more counties, they shall be adjoining; and no county shall be divided in forming a district.'

Thus, Tennessee's standard for allocating legislative representation among her counties is the total number of qualified voters resident in the respective counties, subject only to minor qualifications.4 Decennial reapportionment

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in compliance with the constitutional scheme was effected by the General Assembly each decade from 1871 to 1901. The 1871 apportionment5 was preceded by an 1870 statute requiring an enumeration.6 The 1881 apportionment involved three statutes, the first authorizing an enumeration, the second enlarging the Senate from 25 to

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33 members and the House from 75 to 99 members, and the third apportioning the membership of both Houses.7 In 1891 there were both an enumeration and an apportionment.8 In 1901 the General Assembly abandoned separate enumeration in favor of reliance upon the Federal Census and passed the Apportionment Act here in controversy.9 In the more than 60 years since that action, all proposals in both Houses of the General Assembly for reapportionment have failed to pass.10

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Between 1901 and 1961, Tennessee has experienced substantial growth and redistribution of her population. In 1901 the population was 2,020,616, of whom 487,380 were eligible to vote.11 The 1960 Federal Census reports the State's population at 3,567,089, of whom 2,092,891 are eligible to vote.12 The relative standings of the counties in terms of qualified voters have changed significantly. It is primarily the continued application of the 1901 Apportionment Act to this shifted and enlarged voting population which gives rise to the present controversy.

Indeed, the complaint alleges that the 1901 statute, even as of the time of its passage, 'made no apportionment of Representatives and Senators in accordance with the constitutional formula * * *, but instead arbitrarily and capriciously apportioned representatives in the Senate and House without reference * * * to any logical or reasonable formula whatever.'13 It is further alleged

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that 'because of the population changes since 1900, and the failure of the Legislature to reapportion itself since 1901,' the 1901 statute became 'unconstitutional and obsolete.' Appellants also argue that, because of the composition of the legislature effected by the 1901 Apportionment Act, redress in the form of a state constitutional amendment to change the entire mechanism for reapportioning, or any other change short of that, is difficult or impossible.14 The complaint concludes that 'these plain-

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tiffs and others similarly situated, are denied the equal protection of the laws accorded them by the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States by virtue of the debasement of their votes.'15 They seek a

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declaration that the 1901 statute is unconstitutional and an injunction restraining the appellees from acting to conduct any further elections under it. They also pray that unless and until the General Assembly enacts a valid reapportionment, the District Court should either decree a reapportionment by mathematical application of the Tennessee constitutional formulae to the most recent Federal Census figures, or direct the appellees to conduct legislative elections, primary and general, at large. They also pray for such other and further relief as may be appropriate.

I.

THE DISTRICT COURT'S OPINION AND ORDER OF DISMISSAL.

Because we deal with this case on appeal from an order of dismissal granted on appellees' motions, precise identi-

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fication of the issues presently confronting us demands clear exposition of the grounds upon which the District Court rested in dismissing the case. The dismissal order recited that the court sustained the appellees' grounds '(1) that the Court lacks jurisdiction of the subject matter, and (2) that the complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted * * *.'

In the setting of a case such as this, the recited grounds embrace two possible reasons for dismissal:

First: That the facts and injury alleged, the legal bases invoked as creating the rights and duties relied upon, and the relief sought, fail to come within that language of Article III of the Constitution and of the jurisdictional statutes which define those matters concerning which United States District Courts are empowered to act;

Second: That, although the matter is cognizable and facts are alleged which establish infringement of appellants' rights as a result of state legislative action departing from a federal constitutional standard, the court will not proceed because the matter is considered unsuited to judicial inquiry or adjustment.

We treat the first ground of dismissal as 'lack of jurisdiction of the subject matter.' The second we consider to result in a failure to state a justiciable cause of action.

The District Court's dismissal order recited that it was issued in conformity with the court's per curiam opinion. The opinion reveals that the court rested its dismissal upon lack of subject-matter jurisdiction and lack of a justiciable cause of action without attempting to distinguish between these grounds. After noting that the plaintiffs challenged the existing legislative apportionment in Tennessee under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses, and summarizing the supporting allegations and the relief requested, the court stated that

'The action is presently before the Court upon the defendants' motion to dismiss predicated upon three

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grounds: first, that the Court lacks jurisdiction of the subject matter; second, that the complaints fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted; and third, that indispensable party defendants are not before the Court.' 179 F.Supp., at 826.

The court proceeded to explain its action as turning on the case's presenting a 'question of the distribution of political strength for legislative purposes.' For,

'From a review of (numerous Supreme Court) * * * decisions there can be no doubt that the federal rule, as enunciated and applied by the Supreme Court, is that the federal courts, whether from a lack of jurisdiction or from the inappropriateness of the subject matter for judicial consideration, will not intervene in cases of this type to compel legislative reapportionment.' 179 F.Supp., at 826.

The court went on to express doubts as to the feasibility of the various possible remedies sought by the plaintiffs. 179 F.Supp., at 827—828. Then it made clear that its dismissal reflected a view...

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5209 practice notes
  • Frissell v. Rizzo, No. 78-1863
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Third Circuit
    • February 20, 1979
    ...the case a fuller and more accurate account of the considerations relevant to the decision than it would otherwise receive. Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 204, 82 S.Ct. 691, 7 L.Ed.2d 663 (1962); See also, Singleton v. Wulff, supra, 428 U.S. at 114, 96 S.Ct. 2868; Schlesinger v. Reservists to......
  • American Booksellers Ass'n, Inc. v. Schiff, Civ. 85-0966 BB.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of New Mexico
    • November 3, 1986
    ...stake in the outcome" to provide for the "concrete adverseness which sharpens the presentation of constitutional issues." Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 204, 82 S.Ct. 691, 703, 7 L.Ed.2d 663 (1962). Normally, a party must assert his own rights, rather than the rights of third parties. Warth v......
  • In re Pharmaceutical Industry, M.D.L. No. 1456 (D. Mass. 5/13/2003), M.D.L. No. 1456.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Massachusetts
    • May 13, 2003
    ...2197, 2205 (1975) (discussing limitations on judicial intervention that involve matters of "judicial self-governance."); Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 210, 82 S.Ct. 691, 706 (1961) (noting that the political question doctrine operates as a prudential limitation on the courts review of other ......
  • Ingebretsen v. Jackson Public School Dist., No. 3:94-cv-411WS.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Southern District of Mississippi
    • September 2, 1994
    ...stake in the outcome of the controversy as to assure that concrete adverseness which sharpens presentation of issues." Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 204, 82 S.Ct. 691, 703, 7 L.Ed.2d 663 (1962); Massachusetts v. Mellon, 262 U.S. 447, 488, 43 S.Ct. 597, 601, 67 L.Ed. 1078 (1923). In Meltzer v......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
5163 cases
  • Frissell v. Rizzo, No. 78-1863
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Third Circuit
    • February 20, 1979
    ...the case a fuller and more accurate account of the considerations relevant to the decision than it would otherwise receive. Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 204, 82 S.Ct. 691, 7 L.Ed.2d 663 (1962); See also, Singleton v. Wulff, supra, 428 U.S. at 114, 96 S.Ct. 2868; Schlesinger v. Reservists to......
  • American Booksellers Ass'n, Inc. v. Schiff, Civ. 85-0966 BB.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of New Mexico
    • November 3, 1986
    ...stake in the outcome" to provide for the "concrete adverseness which sharpens the presentation of constitutional issues." Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 204, 82 S.Ct. 691, 703, 7 L.Ed.2d 663 (1962). Normally, a party must assert his own rights, rather than the rights of third parties. Warth v......
  • In re Pharmaceutical Industry, M.D.L. No. 1456 (D. Mass. 5/13/2003), M.D.L. No. 1456.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Massachusetts
    • May 13, 2003
    ...2197, 2205 (1975) (discussing limitations on judicial intervention that involve matters of "judicial self-governance."); Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 210, 82 S.Ct. 691, 706 (1961) (noting that the political question doctrine operates as a prudential limitation on the courts review of other ......
  • Ingebretsen v. Jackson Public School Dist., No. 3:94-cv-411WS.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Southern District of Mississippi
    • September 2, 1994
    ...stake in the outcome of the controversy as to assure that concrete adverseness which sharpens presentation of issues." Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 204, 82 S.Ct. 691, 703, 7 L.Ed.2d 663 (1962); Massachusetts v. Mellon, 262 U.S. 447, 488, 43 S.Ct. 597, 601, 67 L.Ed. 1078 (1923). In Meltzer v......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
46 books & journal articles
  • Administering the National Environmental Policy Act
    • United States
    • Environmental Law Reporter Nbr. 45-4, April 2015
    • April 1, 2015
    ...orders that “embody Presidential discretion as to political matters beyond the competence of the courts to adjudicate”); Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 217 (1962) (setting out criteria for identifying a political question that is not justiciable, including “an unusual need for unquestioning a......
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    ...Club v. Morton, 405 U.S. 727 (1972) (No. 70-34). 101. Id . at 4 (internal quotations and punctuation omitted) (citing Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 208 (1962)). 102. Here, the Club also departed to some extent from its initial brief, where it included a sentence accusing the Ninth Circuit of......
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    ...challenge to appellee’s standing as a “meaningless quibble”). 26. Los Angeles v. Lyons, 461 U.S. 95, 101 (1983) (citing Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 204 (1962)). 27. 131 S. Ct. 2020 (2011). 28. Id. at 2028. 29. Consumer Watchdog v. Wisc. Alumni Research Found., 753 F.3d 1258, 1261 (Fed. Cir......
  • Article III Separation of Powers, Standing, and the Rejection of a 'Public Rights' Model of Environmental Citizen Suits
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    • April 20, 2009
    ...a person cannot challenge the constitutionality of a statute unless he shows himself to be injured by its operation. 19. Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 204-05 (1962). 20. 392 U.S. 83 (1968). 21. Id . at 94-95. ch08.indd 196 4/30/09 10:12:03 AM separation of powers and standing 197 Second, it ......
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