Gingles v. Edmisten, 81-803-CIV-5.

Citation590 F. Supp. 345
Decision Date20 April 1984
Docket NumberNo. 81-803-CIV-5.,81-803-CIV-5.
PartiesRalph GINGLES, Sippio Burton, Fred Belfield, and Joseph Moody, on Behalf of Themselves and All Others Similarly Situated, Plaintiffs, Alan V. Pugh, Gregory T. Griffin, Mason McCullough, Paul B. Eaglin, Ethel R. Trotter, Gilbert Lee Boger, David D. Almond, Jr., Ray Warren, Joe B. Roberts, Plaintiff-Intervenors, v. Rufus EDMISTEN, in his capacity as the Attorney General of N.C.; James C. Green, Lt. Governor of N.C. in His Capacity as President of the N.C. Senate; Liston B. Ramsey in His Capacity as Speaker of the N.C. House of Reps.; The State Board of Elections of N.C.; Robert W. Spearman, Elloree M. Erwin, Ruth T. Semashko, William A. Marsh, Jr., and John A. Walker, in Their Official Capacities as Members of the State Board of Elections of N.C.; and Thad Eure, in His Capacity as Secretary of the State of N.C., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of North Carolina

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Leslie J. Winner, Chambers, Ferguson, Watt, Wallas & Adkins, Charlotte, N.C., Robert N. Hunter, Jr., Greensboro, N.C., Jack Greenberg, James M. Nabrit, III, Lani Guinier, New York City, for plaintiffs.

James Wallace, Jr., Deputy Atty. Gen. for Legal Affairs, Rufus L. Edmisten, N.C. Atty. Gen., Raleigh, N.C., for defendants.

Before PHILLIPS, Circuit Judge, BRITT, Chief District Judge, and DUPREE, Senior District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

JAMES DICKSON PHILLIPS, Circuit Judge:

In this action Ralph Gingles and others, individually and as representatives of a class composed of all the black citizens of North Carolina who are registered to vote, challenge on constitutional and statutory grounds the redistricting1 plan enacted in final form in 1982 by the General Assembly of North Carolina for the election of members of the Senate and House of Representatives of that state's bicameral legislature. Jurisdiction of this three-judge district court is based on 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1343, and 2284 (three judge court) and on 42 U.S.C. § 1973c.

The gravamen of plaintiffs' claim is that the plan makes use of multi-member districts with substantial white voting majorities in some areas of the state in which there are sufficient concentrations of black voters to form majority black single-member districts, and that in another area of the state the plan fractures into separate voting minorities a comparable concentration of black voters, all in a manner that violates rights of the plaintiffs secured by section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, amended June 29, 1982, 42 U.S.C. § 1973 (Section 2, or Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act), 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1983, and the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth amendments to the United States Constitution.2 In particular, the claim is that the General Assembly's plan impermissibly dilutes the voting strength of the state's registered black voters by submerging black voting minorities in multi-member House District No. 36 (8 members—Mecklenburg County), multi-member House District No. 39 (5 members — part of Forsyth County), multi-member House District No. 23 (3 members—Durham County), multi — member House District No. 21 (6 members — Wake County), multi-member House District No. 8 (4 members — Wilson, Edgecombe and Nash Counties), and multi-member Senate District No. 22 (4 members — Mecklenburg and Cabarrus Counties), and by fracturing between more than one senate district in the northeastern section of the state a concentration of black voters sufficient in numbers and contiguity to constitute a voting majority in at least one single-member district, with the consequence, as intended, that in none of the senate districts into which the concentration is fractured (most notably, Senate District 2 with the largest mass of the concentration) is there an effective voting majority of black citizens.

We conclude on the basis of our factual findings that the redistricting plan violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act in all the respects challenged, and that plaintiffs are therefore entitled to appropriate relief, including an order enjoining defendants from conducting elections under the extant plan. Because we uphold plaintiffs' claim for relief under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, we do not address their other statutory and constitutional claims seeking the same relief.

I General Background and Procedural History

In July of 1981, responding to its legal obligation to make any redistrictings compelled by the 1980 decenniel census, the North Carolina General Assembly enacted a legislative redistricting plan for the state's House of Representatives and Senate. This original 1981 plan used a combination of multi-member and single-member districts across the state, with multi-member districts predominating; had no district in which blacks constituted a registered voter majority and only one with a black population majority; and had a range of maximum population deviations from the equal protection ideal of more than 20%. Each of the districts was composed of one or more whole counties, a result then mandated by state constitutional provisions adopted in 1968 by amendments that prohibited the division of counties in legislative districting. At the time this original redistricting plan was enacted (and at all critical times in this litigation) forty of North Carolina's one hundred counties were covered by section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, 42 U.S.C. § 1973c (Section 5, or Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act).

Plaintiffs filed this action on September 16, 1981, challenging that original redistricting plan for, inter alia, its population deviations, its submergence of black voter concentrations in some of the multi-member districts, and the failure of the state to obtain preclearance, pursuant to Section 5, of the 1968 constitutional amendments prohibiting county division in legislative districting.

After this action had been filed, the state submitted the 1968 no-division-of-counties constitutional provisions for original Section 5 preclearance by the Attorney General of the United States. While action on that submission was pending, the General Assembly convened again in special session and in October 1981 repealed the original districting plan for the state House of Representatives and enacted another. This new plan reduced the range of maximum population deviations to approximately 16%, retained a preponderance of multi-member districts across the state, and again divided no counties. No revision of the extant Senate districting plan was made.

In November 1981, the Attorney General interposed formal objection, under Section 5, to the no-division-of-counties constitutional provisions so far as they affected covered counties. Objection was based on the Attorney General's expressed view that the use of whole counties in legislative districting required the use of large multi-member districts and that this "necessarily submerges cognizable minority population concentrations into larger white electorates." Following this objection to the constitutional provisions, the Attorney General further objected, on December 7, 1981, and January 20, 1982, to the then extant redistricting plans for both the Senate and House as they affected covered counties.

In February 1982, the General Assembly again convened in extra session and on February 11, 1982, enacted for both the Senate and House revised redistricting plans which divided some counties both in areas covered and areas not covered by Section 5. Again, on April 19, 1982, the Attorney General interposed objections to the revised districting plans for both the Senate and House. The letter interposing objection acknowledged some improvement of black voters' situation by reason of county division in Section 5 covered areas, but found the improvements insufficient to permit preclearance. The General Assembly once more reconvened in a second extra session on April 26, 1982, and on April 27, 1982, enacted a further revised plan which again divided counties both in areas covered and areas not covered by Section 5. That plan, embodied in chapters 1 and 2 of the North Carolina Session Laws of the Second Extra Session of 1982, received Section 5 preclearance on April 30, 1982. As precleared under Section 5, that plan constitutes the extant legislative districting law of the state, and is the subject of plaintiffs' ultimate challenge by amended and supplemented complaint in this action.3

During the course of the legislative proceedings above summarized, this action proceeded through its pre-trial stages.4 Amended and supplemental pleadings accommodating to successive revisions of the originally challenged redistricting plan were allowed. Extensive discovery and motion practice was had; extensive stipulations of fact were made and embodied in pretrial orders. The presently composed three-judge court was designated by Chief Judge Harrison L. Winter of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit on October 16, 1981. The action was designated a plaintiff class action by stipulation of the parties on April 2, 1982. Following enactment and Section 5 preclearance of the April 27, 1982, Senate and House districting plans, the pleadings were closed, with issue joined for trial on plaintiffs' challenge, by amended and supplemented complaint, to that finally adopted plan.

Following a final pre-trial conference on July 14, 1983, trial to the three-judge court was held from July 25, 1983, through August 3, 1983. Extensive oral and documentary evidence was received. Decision was deferred pending the submission by both parties of proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law, briefing and oral argument. Concluding oral arguments of counsel were heard by the court on October 14, 1983, and a limited submission of supplemental documentary evidence by both parties was...

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