Hyden v. Baker

Decision Date13 February 1968
Docket Number4697.,Civ. No. 4674
Citation286 F. Supp. 475
PartiesLee HYDEN et al. v. Charles W. BAKER et al. R. W. BENNETT et al. v. James D. ELLIOTT et al.
CourtU.S. District Court — Middle District of Tennessee

Civ. No. 4674:

Herbert B. Moriarity, Jr., Memphis, Tenn., for plaintiffs.

William H. Williams, R. Lee Winchester, Jr., James W. Watson, Memphis, Tenn., and Thomas E. Fox, Deputy Atty. Gen., State of Tennessee, Nashville, Tenn., for defendants.

Civ. No. 4697:

Frank Bryant, Bryant, Price, Brandt & Torbett, Johnson City, Tenn., for plaintiffs.

Robert M. May, Jonesboro, Tenn., Edwin F. Hunt, and Thomas E. Fox, Deputy Atty. Gen., State of Tennessee, Nashville, Tenn., for defendants.

Before PHILLIPS, Circuit Judge, and WILLIAM E. MILLER and FRANK GRAY, Jr., District Judges.


FRANK GRAY, Jr., District Judge.

In these actions, the respective plaintiffs allege that the provisions of T.C.A. § 19-101, portions of private acts related thereto, and the last grammatical sentence of Article VI, § 15, of the Tennessee Constitution, have resulted in an unconstitutional malapportionment of the quarterly county courts of their respective counties and of other counties in Tennessee.1 The thrust of the complaints is twofold: first, that the equal population or "one-man, one-vote" principle enunciated in Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533, 84 S.Ct. 1362, 12 L.Ed.2d 506 (1964), applies to the apportionment of this level of local government in Tennessee, and, secondly, that the apportionment of the Quarterly Courts of Shelby and Washington Counties pursuant to the challenged provisions has resulted in a disparity of representation in violation of the Reynolds v. Sims doctrine. Consequently, these actions were instituted against various state and local officials seeking declaratory and injunctive relief.

This court was designated, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 2281 and 2284, to hear and determine the issues in both actions. Upon convening, a motion to consolidate these actions was denied, although it was ordered that they would be heard together to the extent that the issues were the same. After careful consideration, we are of the opinion that, notwithstanding certain differences in the nature of the alleged malapportionment, the identity of the underlying issues raised by both suits warrants their common disposition.


We are faced with the same threshold question in each action: whether the questions presented come within the particular competence of this court as defined by 28 U.S.C. § 2281. Before this question of statutory compliance can be reached, however, the prefatory issue of subject matter jurisdiction must be decided.

Unlike a single judge district court, the subject matter jurisdiction of a statutory three-judge court is not satisfied merely by the allegation that a federal question is involved or that there is diversity of citizenship and the requisite jurisdictional amount. To comply with this preliminary jurisdictional requirement, the complaint must raise a substantial federal question not foreclosed by prior decisions. Ex parte Poresky, 290 U.S. 30, 54 S.Ct. 3, 78 L.Ed. 152 (1933). The common contention here is that the equal population standard which Reynolds v. Sims held applicable to state legislative apportionment applies as well to the apportionment of the quarterly courts of Tennessee counties. We are of the opinion that this does present a substantial federal question which, in light of Moody v. Flowers, 387 U.S. 97, 87 S. Ct. 1544, 18 L.Ed.2d 643 (1967), Sailors v. Board of Education, 387 U.S. 105, 87 S.Ct. 1549, 18 L.Ed.2d 650 (1967), and Dusch v. Davis, 387 U.S. 112, 87 S.Ct. 1554, 18 L.Ed.2d 656 (1967), cannot be regarded as foreclosed by prior decisions and, therefore, that the complaints herein come within the rule of Ex parte Poresky, supra.

Section 2281 provides, in pertinent part, that:

"An interlocutory or permanent injunction restraining the enforcement, operation or execution of any State statute by restraining the action of any officer of such State in the enforcement or execution of such statute * * * shall not be granted by any district court or judge thereof upon the ground of unconstitutionality of such statute unless the application therefor is heard and determined by a district court of three judges under section 2284 of this title."

The intent of Congress in enacting this statute was to create a special forum and appellate procedure for adjudicating suits seeking the invalidation of state statutes embodying important state policies. Swift & Co. v. Wickham, 382 U.S. 111, 86 S.Ct. 258, 15 L.Ed.2d 194 (1965) The limited nature of the litigation thus contemplated and the serious administrative burdens imposed by the § 2281 procedure on the federal courts2 necessitate that it be applied "not as a measure of broad social policy to be construed with great liberality, but as an enactment technical in the strict sense of the term * * *." Phillips v. United States, 312 U.S. 246, 251, 61 S.Ct. 480, 483, 85 L.Ed. 800 (1941). Viewing the statute in this manner, the dispositive jurisdictional issue is whether the constitutional and statutory provisions in question are "state statutes" within the purview of § 2281.

Although the Supreme Court in American Federation of Labor v. Watson, 327 U.S. 582, 592-593, 66 S.Ct. 761, 90 L.Ed. 873 (1946), stated that "the word `statute' in § 266 the predecessor of § 2281 is a compendious summary of various enactments, by whatever method they may be adopted, to which a State gives her sanction," this all-inclusive definition has not been followed. Rather, "state statute" generally has been interpreted in terms of the basic objective of § 2281, that is, preventing the "improvident state-wide doom by a federal court of a state's legislative policy." Phillips v. United States, 312 U.S. at 251, 61 S. Ct. at 483. Accord, Kennedy v. Mendoza-Martinez, 372 U.S. 144, 154, 83 S.Ct. 554, 9 L.Ed.2d 644 (1963). Thus, it appears well settled that a three-judge court is properly convened only if the statute under attack is of statewide and general, as opposed to local and limited application. See, e. g., Moody v. Flowers, supra; Griffin v. County School Board, 377 U.S. 218, 84 S.Ct. 1226, 12 L.Ed.2d 256 (1964); City of Cleveland v. United States, 323 U.S. 329, 65 S.Ct. 280, 89 L. Ed. 274 (1945); Rorick v. Board of Commissioners, 307 U.S. 208, 59 S.Ct. 808, 83 L.Ed. 1242 (1939); Spielman Motor Sales Co. v. Dodge, 295 U.S. 89, 55 S.Ct. 678, 79 L.Ed. 1322 (1935); Ex parte Collins, 277 U.S. 565, 48 S.Ct. 585, 72 L. Ed. 990 (1928). The fact, however, that a portion of Article VI of the Tennessee Constitution is here under attack does not preclude the exercise of § 2281 jurisdiction for it is clear that the term "state statute" is not limited to legislative enactments but may include state constitutional provisions. Sincock v. Duffy, 215 F.Supp. 169 (D.Del.1963), affirmed, Roman v. Sincock, 377 U.S. 695, 84 S.Ct. 1449, 12 L.Ed.2d 620 (1963).

The resolution of the instant jurisdictional issue, therefore, is a matter of whether the provisions in question express a policy of the State of Tennessee which is of "state-wide interest and concern." Ex parte Collins, 277 U.S. at 567, 48 S.Ct. at 585. This question cannot be answered realistically by examining these laws in a vacuum; rather, they must be analyzed in the context of the general quarterly county court apportionment scheme.

The quarterly courts of Tennessee counties are composed of Justices of the Peace elected by the qualified voters residing either within a civil district or an incorporated town,3 these being the two geographical subdivisions entitled to representation. The framework of this dual constituency structure is set out in Article VI, § 15, of the Tennessee Constitution, which provides, inter alia, that:

"The different Counties of this State shall be laid off, as the General Assembly may direct, into districts of convenient size, so that the whole number in each County shall not be more than twenty-five, or four for every one hundred square miles. There shall be two Justices of the Peace * * * elected in each district by the qualified voters therein, except districts including County towns, which shall elect three Justices, * * *. The Legislature shall have power to provide for the apportionment of an additional number of Justices of the Peace in incorporated towns."

The broad legislative powers thus granted to the General Assembly have been exercised in an amalgam of general statutes and private acts. The Legislature by general statute has provided that: the counties of Tennessee are to be divided into civil districts, T.C.A. § 5-108; that the qualified voters in each civil district, except those districts including county or incorporated towns, are to elect two Justices of the Peace, T.C.A. § 19-102; and that the qualified voters in civil districts including county towns are to elect three Justices of the Peace, T.C.A. § 19-103.4 The actual districting pursuant to these guidelines, however, is effected by private acts on an individual county basis. The lack of uniform districting produced by these private acts is illustrated by the counties in question: Shelby County is divided by Chapter 522, Private Acts of 1935, as amended by Chapter 166, Private Acts of 1939, into two civil districts electing five Justices of the Peace5 and Washington County is divided by Chapter 421, Private Acts of 1919, into eighteen civil districts electing thirty-seven Justices of the Peace. As shown, infra, additional Justices are elected from the incorporated towns in these counties.

Similarly, the last sentence of Article VI, § 15, Tennessee Constitution, confers upon the General Assembly the power to apportion representation to incorporated towns both by general statute and private act.6 The general statute enacted pursuant to this grant provides that "for every incorporated town, one (1) justice is to be...

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