East Carroll Parish School Board v. Marshall, No. 73-861

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Citation47 L.Ed.2d 296,96 S.Ct. 1083,424 U.S. 636
Docket NumberNo. 73-861
PartiesEAST CARROLL PARISH SCHOOL BOARD and East Carroll Parish Police Jury, Petitioners, v. Stewart MARSHALL
Decision Date08 March 1976

PER CURIAM.

The sole issue raised by this case is how compliance with the one-man, one-vote principle should be achieved in a parish (county) that is admittedly malapportioned.

Plaintiff Zimmer, a white resident of East Carroll Parish, La., brought suit in 1968 alleging that population disparities among the wards of the parish had unconstitu- tionally denied him the right to cast an effective vote in elections for members of the police jury 1 and the school board. See Avery v. Midland County, 390 U.S. 474, 88 S.Ct. 1114, 20 L.Ed.2d 45 (1968). After a hearing the District Court agreed that the wards were unevenly apportioned and adopted a reapportionment plan suggested by the East Carroll police jury calling for the at-large election of members of both the police jury and the school board.2 The 1969 and 1970 elections were held under this plan.

The proceedings were renewed in 1971 after the District Court, apparently Sua sponte, instructed the East Carroll police jury and school board to file reapportionment plans revised in accordance with the 1970 census. In response, the jury and board resubmitted the at-large plan. Respondent Marshall was permitted to intervene on behalf of himself and all other black voters in East Carroll. Following a hearing the District Court again approved the multimember arrangement. The intervenor appealed,3 contending that at-large elections would tend to dilute the black vote in violation of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Over a dissent, a panel of the Court of Appeals affirmed,4 but on rehearing en banc, the court reversed.5 It found clearly erroneous the District Court's ruling that at-large elections would not diminish the black voting strength of East Carroll Parish. Relying upon White v. Regester, 412 U.S. 755, 93 S.Ct. 2332, 37 L.Ed.2d 314 (1973), it seemingly held that multimember districts were unconstitutional, unless their use would afford a minority greater opportunity for political participation, or unless the use of single-member districts would infringe protected rights.

We granted certiorari, 422 U.S. 1055, 95 S.Ct. 2677, 45 L.Ed.2d 707 (1975), and now affirm the judgment below, but without approval of the constitutional views expressed by the Court of Appeals.6 See Ashwander v. TVA, 297 U.S. 288, 346-347, 56 S.Ct. 466, 482, 80 L.Ed. 688, 710 (1936) (Brandeis, J., concurring).

The District Court, in adopting the multimember, at-large reapportionment plan, was silent as to the relative merits of a single-member arrangement. And the Court of Appeals, inexplicably in our view, declined to consider whether the District Court erred under Connor v. Johnson, 402 U.S. 690, 91 S.Ct. 1760, 29 L.Ed.2d 268 (1971), in endorsing a multimember plan, resting its decision instead upon constitutional grounds. We have frequently reaffirmed the rule that when United States district courts are put to the task of fashioning reapportionment plans to supplant concededly invalid state legislation, single-member districts are to be preferred absent unusual circumstances. Chapman v. Meier, 420 U.S. 1, 17-19, 95 S.Ct. 751, 761-762, 42 L.Ed.2d 766, 778-780 (1975); Mahan v. Howell, 410 U.S. 315, 333, 93 S.Ct. 979, 989, 35 L.Ed.2d 320, 335 (1973); Connor v. Williams, 404 U.S. 549, 551, 92 S.Ct. 656, 658, 30 L.Ed.2d 704, 707 (1972); Connor v. Johnson, supra, 402 U.S. at 692, 91 S.Ct. at 1762, 29 L.Ed.2d at 271. As the en banc opinion of the Court of Appeals amply demonstrates, no special circumstances here dictate the use of multimember districts. Thus, we hold that in shaping remedial relief the District Court abused its discretion in not initially ordering a single-member reapportionment plan.

On this basis, the judgment is Affirmed.

Judgment affirmed.

Mr. Chief Justice BURGER, concurring.

I consider it unnecessary to reach the question discussed ante, at 638-639, n. 6. It was, as the Court observes in n. 6, "not raised by the petitioners, nor did respondent file a cross-petition." The scope of § 5 of the Voting Rights Act is an important matter and I would not undertake to express any view on what the Court discusses by way of dicta in n. 6.

1 In Louisiana, the police jury is the governing body of the parish. Its authority includes construction and repair of roads, levying taxes to defray parish expenses, providing for the public health, and performing other duties related to public health and welfare. La.Rev.Stat.Ann. § 33:1236 (1950 and Supp. 1975).

2 Prior to 1968, Louisiana law prohibited at-large elections of members of police juries and school boards. In July 1968, the Governor of Louisiana approved enabling legislation permitting the at-large election of parish police juries and school boards. La. Laws 1968, Act No. 445, codified at La.Rev.Stat.Ann. §§ 33:1221, 33:1224 (Supp. 1975); La. Laws 1968, Act No. 561, codified at La.Rev.Stat.Ann. §§ 17:71.1-17:71.6 (Supp. 1975).

Both Acts were submitted to the United States Attorney General pursuant to § 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, 79 Stat. 439, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 1973c, and both were rejected because of their discriminatory effect on Negro voters. See letters, June 26, 1969, and Sept. 10, 1969, from Jerris Leonard, Assistant Attorney General, Civil Rights Division, to Jack P. F. Gremillion, Attorney General of Louisiana. Indeed, East Carroll Parish was cited as exemplifying the dilution in black ballot strength that at-large voting may...

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220 cases
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    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Southern District of Alabama
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    ...314 (1973) and Zimmer v. McKeithen, 485 F.2d 1297 (5th Cir. 1973) (en banc), affirmed sub nom., East Carroll Parish School Board v. Marshall, 424 U.S. 636, 96 S.Ct. 1083, 47 L.Ed.2d 296 (1976). These cases established the areas of inquiry for a district court presented with a voter dilution......
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    ...v. McKeithen, 485 F.2d 1297 (5th Cir.1973) (en banc), aff'd on other grounds sub nom. East Carroll Parish School Board v. Marshall, 424 U.S. 636, 96 S.Ct. 1083, 47 L.Ed.2d 296 (1976) (per curiam). These typically include, per the Senate Report accompanying the compromise version enacted as ......
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  • The Implementation of Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act: A Retrospective on the Role of Courts
    • United States
    • Political Research Quarterly No. 32-2, June 1979
    • 1 Junio 1979
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    • United States
    • Political Research Quarterly No. 32-2, June 1979
    • 1 Junio 1979
    ...is entirely reasonable. Court ordered reapportionment plans, as a meaningful classification, ”Ibid. at 1763. ’’ 95 S.Ct. 2003 (1975). ” 96 S.Ct. 1083 (1976). ‘‘ Ibid. at 1086, footnote #6. “334 F.Supp. 280 (N.D. Miss. 1971). 365 F.Supp. 215 (hf.D. Ala. 1973). “536 F.2d 101 (5th Cir. 1976). ......
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    • Yale Law Journal Vol. 120 No. 6, April 2011
    • 1 Abril 2011
    ...(1973), as analyzed in Zimmer v. McKeithen, 485 F.2d 1297 (5th Cir. 2973), aff'd sub nom. East Carroll Parish School Board v. Marshall, 424 U.S. 636 (64.) 478 U.S. 30 (1986). (65.) Id. at 48-51 (footnotes omitted). (66.) See Blacksher & Menefee, supra note 62, at 51 (arguing that diluti......

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