Harris v. McCrory, Case No. 1:13-cv-949

CourtUnited States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Middle District of North Carolina
Citation159 F.Supp.3d 600
Decision Date05 February 2016
Docket NumberCase No. 1:13-cv-949
Parties David Harris, Christine Bowser, and Samuel Love, Plaintiffs, v. Patrick McCrory, in his capacity as Governor of North Carolina, North Carolina State Board of Elections, and Joshua Howard, in his capacity as Chairman of the North Carolina State Board of Elections, Defendants.

159 F.Supp.3d 600

David Harris, Christine Bowser, and Samuel Love, Plaintiffs,
Patrick McCrory, in his capacity as Governor of North Carolina, North Carolina State Board of Elections, and Joshua Howard, in his capacity as Chairman of the North Carolina State Board of Elections, Defendants.

Case No. 1:13-cv-949

United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina.

Signed February 5, 2016

159 F.Supp.3d 603

Marc E. Elias, Bruce V. Spiva, John M. Devaney, Edwin M. Speas, Jr., Perkins Coie, LLP, Washington, DC, Caroline P. Mackie, John Ward O'Hale, Poyner Spruill, LLP, Raleigh, NC, Kevin J. Hamilton, William B. Stafford, Perkins Coie, LLP, Seattle, WA, for Plaintiffs.

Thomas A. Farr, Michael Douglas McKnight, Phillip John Strach, Ogletree Deakins Nash Smoak & Stewart, P.C., Raleigh, NC, Alexander McClure Peters, Katherine A. Murphy, N.C. Department of Justice, Raleigh, NC, for Defendants.


Roger L. Gregory, United States Circuit Judge

Circuit Judge Roger L. Gregory wrote the majority opinion, in which District Judge Max O. Cogburn, Jr., joined and filed a separate concurrence. District Judge William L. Osteen, Jr., joined in part and filed a dissent as to Part II.A.2:

“[T]he Framers of the Fourteenth Amendment ... desired to place clear limits on the States' use of race as a criterion for legislative action, and to have the federal courts enforce those limitations.” Richmond v. J.A. Croson Co ., 488 U.S. 469, 491, 109 S.Ct. 706, 102 L.Ed.2d 854 (1989). For good reason. Racial classifications are, after all, “antithetical to the Fourteenth Amendment, whose ‘central purpose’ was ‘to eliminate racial discrimination emanating from official sources in the States.’ ” Shaw v. Hunt , 517 U.S. 899, 907, 116 S.Ct. 1894, 135 L.Ed.2d 207 (1996) (Shaw II ) (quoting McLaughlin v. Florida , 379 U.S. 184, 192, 85 S.Ct. 283, 13 L.Ed.2d 222 (1964) ).

The “disregard of individual rights” is the “fatal flaw” in such race-

159 F.Supp.3d 604

based classifications. Regents of the Univ. of Cal. v. Bakke , 438 U.S. 265, 320, 98 S.Ct. 2733, 57 L.Ed.2d 750 (1978) ; see also J.A. Croson Co. , 488 U.S. at 493, 109 S.Ct. 706 (explaining that the “ ‘rights created by the first section of the Fourteenth Amendment are, by its terms, guaranteed to the individual. The rights established are personal rights' ” (quoting Shelley v. Kraemer , 334 U.S. 1, 22, 68 S.Ct. 836, 92 L.Ed. 1161 (1948) )). By assigning voters to certain districts based on the color of their skin, states risk “engag[ing] in the offensive and demeaning assumption that voters of a particular race, because of their race, ‘think alike, share the same political interests, and will prefer the same candidates at the polls.’ ” Miller v. Johnson , 515 U.S. 900, 911–12, 115 S.Ct. 2475, 132 L.Ed.2d 762 (1995) (quoting Shaw v. Reno , 509 U.S. 630, 647, 113 S.Ct. 2816, 125 L.Ed.2d 511 (1993) (Shaw I )). Quotas are especially pernicious embodiments of racial stereotypes because they threaten citizens' “ ‘personal rights' to be treated with equal dignity and respect.” J.A. Croson Co. , 488 U.S. at 493, 109 S.Ct. 706.

Laws that classify citizens based on race are constitutionally suspect and therefore subject to strict scrutiny; racially gerrymandered districting schemes are no different, even when adopted for benign purposes. Shaw II , 517 U.S. at 904–05, 116 S.Ct. 1894. This does not mean that race can never play a role in redistricting. Miller , 515 U.S. at 916, 115 S.Ct. 2475. Legislatures are almost always cognizant of race when drawing district lines, and simply being aware of race poses no constitutional violation. See Shaw II , 517 U.S. at 905, 116 S.Ct. 1894. Only when race is the “dominant and controlling” consideration in drawing district lines does strict scrutiny apply. Id. ; see also Easley v. Cromartie , 532 U.S. 234, 241, 121 S.Ct. 1452, 149 L.Ed.2d 430 (2001) (Cromartie II ).

This case challenges the constitutionality of two North Carolina congressional districts as racial gerrymanders in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Specifically, this case concerns North Carolina's Congressional District 1 (“CD 1”) and Congressional District 12 (“CD 12”) as they stood after the 2011 redistricting. The plaintiffs contend that the congressional map adopted by the North Carolina General Assembly in 2011 violates the Fourteenth Amendment: race was the predominant consideration with respect to both districts, and the General Assembly did not narrowly tailor the districts to serve a compelling interest. The Court agrees.

After careful consideration of all evidence presented during a three-day bench trial, the parties' findings of fact and conclusions of law, the parties' arguments, and the applicable law, the Court finds that the plaintiffs have shown that race predominated in both CD 1 and CD 12 and that the defendants have failed to establish that its race-based redistricting satisfies strict scrutiny. Accordingly, the Court holds that the general assembly's 2011 Congressional Redistricting Plan is unconstitutional as violative of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Having found that the 2011 Congressional Redistricting Plan violates the Equal Protection Clause, the Court will require that new congressional districts be drawn forthwith to remedy the unconstitutional districts. See Wise v. Lipscomb , 437 U.S. 535, 539–40, 98 S.Ct. 2493, 57 L.Ed.2d 411 (1978).

Before turning to a description of the history of the litigation and an analysis of the issues it presents, the Court notes that it makes no finding as to whether individual legislators acted in good faith in the redistricting process, as no such finding is required. See

159 F.Supp.3d 605

Page v. Va. State Bd. of Elections , No. 3:13–cv–678, 2015 WL 3604029, at *7 (E.D.Va. June 5, 2015) (“[T]he good faith of the legislature does not excuse or cure the constitutional violation of separating voters according to race.”). Nevertheless, the resulting legislative enactment has affected North Carolina citizens' fundamental right to vote, in violation of the Equal Protection Clause.



The North Carolina Constitution requires decennial redistricting of the North Carolina Senate and North Carolina House of Representatives, subject to several specific requirements. The general assembly is directed to revise the districts and apportion representatives and senators among those districts. N.C. Const. art. II, §§ 3, 5. Similarly, consistent with the requirements of the Constitution of the United States, the general assembly establishes North Carolina's districts for the U.S. House of Representatives after every decennial census. See U.S. Const. art. I, §§ 2, 4; N.C. Const. art. II, §§ 3, 5 ; 2 U.S.C. §§ 2a, 2c.

Redistricting legislation must comply with the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (“VRA”). “The Voting Rights Act was designed by Congress to banish the blight of racial discrimination in voting ....” South Carolina v. Katzenbach , 383 U.S. 301, 308, 86 S.Ct. 803, 15 L.Ed.2d 769 (1966), abrogated by Shelby Cnty., Ala. v. Holder , ––– U.S. ––––, 133 S.Ct. 2612, 186 L.Ed.2d 651 (2013). Enacted pursuant to Congress's enforcement powers under the Fifteenth Amendment, see Shelby Cnty. , 133 S.Ct. at 2619–21, the VRA prohibits states from adopting plans that would result in vote dilution under section 2, 52 U.S.C. § 10301, or in covered jurisdictions, retrogression under section 5, 52 U.S.C. § 10304.

Section 2(a) of the VRA prohibits the imposition of any electoral practice or procedure that “results in a denial or abridgement of the right of any citizen ... to vote on account of race or color.” 52 U.S.C. § 10301(a). A section 2 violation occurs when, based on the totality of circumstances, the political process results in minority “members hav[ing] less opportunity than other members of the electorate to participate in the political process and to elect representatives of their choice.” Id. § 10301(b).

Section 5 of the VRA prohibits a state or political subdivision subject to section 4 of the VRA from enforcing “any voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure with respect to voting different from that in force or effect on November 1, 1964,” unless it has obtained a declaratory judgment from the District Court for the District of Columbia that such change “does not have the purpose and will not have the effect of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race or color” or has submitted the proposed change to the U.S. attorney general and the attorney general has not objected to it. Beer v. United States , 425 U.S. 130, 131–32, 96 S.Ct. 1357, 47 L.Ed.2d 629 (1976). By requiring that proposed changes be approved in advance, Congress sought “ ‘to shift the advantage of time and inertia from the perpetrators of the evil to its victim,’ by ‘freezing election procedures in the covered areas unless the changes can be shown to be nondiscriminatory.’ ” Id. at 140, 96 S.Ct. 1357 (quoting H.R. Rep. No. 94–196, pp. 57–58 (1970)). The purpose of this approach was to ensure that “no voting-procedure changes would be made that would lead to a retrogression in the position of racial minorities with respect to their effective exercise of the electoral...

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    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Western District of Texas
    • 10 mars 2017
    ...other considerations may have played a role in . . . redistricting does not mean that race did not predominate."); Harris v. McCrory, 159 F. Supp. 3d 600, 615 (M.D.N.C. 2016) (even in a "mixed-motive suit"—in which a state's conceded goal of "produc[ing] majority-minority districts" is acco......
  • N.C. State Conference of the NAACP v. McCrory, 1:13CV658
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    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Middle District of North Carolina
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    ...for several congressional districts, including the First and Twelfth Districts, as well as several State districts); Harris v. McCrory, 159 F.Supp.3d 600, 627–28, No. 1:13cv949, 2016 WL 482052, at *21 (M.D.N.C. Feb. 5, 2016) (invalidating maps for the First and Twelfth Congressional Distric......
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    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Middle District of North Carolina
    • 31 décembre 2019
    ...concluded that North Carolina's legislative and congressional maps contained intentional racial gerrymanders. See Harris v. McCrory , 159 F. Supp. 3d 600, 605, 627 (M.D.N.C. 2016) (concluding that "race predominated" in the General Assembly's drawing of Congressional maps); Covington , 316 ......
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    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Middle District of North Carolina
    • 19 septembre 2017
    ...congressional districting plan, which Hofeller produced at the direction of Senator Rucho and Representative Lewis. Harris v. McCrory, 159 F.Supp.3d 600, 608 (M.D.N.C. 2016), aff'd sub nom. Cooper v. Harris, ––– U.S. ––––, 137 S.Ct. 1455, 197 L.Ed.2d 837 (2017). Again reflecting the legisla......
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