Karcher v. Daggett, No. 81-2057

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtBRENNAN
Citation77 L.Ed.2d 133,462 U.S. 725,103 S.Ct. 2653
Decision Date22 June 1983
Docket NumberNo. 81-2057
PartiesAlan J. KARCHER, Speaker, New Jersey Assembly, et al., Appellants v. George T. DAGGETT et al

462 U.S. 725
103 S.Ct. 2653
77 L.Ed.2d 133
Alan J. KARCHER, Speaker, New Jersey Assembly, et al., Appellants

v.

George T. DAGGETT et al.

No. 81-2057.
Argued March 2, 1983.
Decided June 22, 1983.
Syllabus

As a result of the 1980 census, the New Jersey Legislature reapportioned the State's congressional districts. The reapportionment plan contained 14 districts, with an average population per district of 526,059, each district, on the average, differing from the "ideal" figure by 0.1384%. The largest district (Fourth District) had a population of 527,472, and the smallest (Sixth District) had a population of 523,798, the difference between them being 0.6984% of the average district. In a suit by a group of individuals challenging the plan's validity, the District Court held that the plan violated Art. I, § 2, of the Constitution because the population deviations among districts, although small, were not the result of a good-faith effort to achieve population equality.

Held:

1. The "equal representation" standard of Art. I, § 2, requires that congressional districts be apportioned to achieve population equality as nearly as is practicable. Parties challenging apportionment legislation bear the burden of proving that populatio differences among districts could have been reduced or eliminated by a good-faith effort to draw districts of equal population. If the plaintiffs carry their burden, the State must then bear the burden of proving that each significant variance between districts was necessary to achieve some legitimate goal. Cf. Kirkpatrick v. Preisler, 394 U.S. 526, 89 S.Ct. 1225, 22 L.Ed.2d 519; White v. Weiser, 412 U.S. 783, 93 S.Ct. 2348, 37 L.Ed.2d 335. Pp. 730-731

2. New Jersey's plan may not be regarded per se as the product of a good-faith effort to achieve population equality merely because the maximum population deviation among districts is smaller than the predictable undercount in available census data. Pp. 731-740.

(a) The "as nearly as practicable" standard for apportioning congressional districts "is inconsistent with adoption of fixed numerical standards which excuse population variances without regard to the circumstances of each particular case." Kirkpatrick, supra, 394 U.S., at 530, 89 S.Ct., at 1228. Only the principle of population equality as developed in Kirkpatrick, supra, and Wesberry v. Sanders, 376 U.S. 1, 84 S.Ct. 526, 11 L.Ed.2d 481, reflects the aspirations of Art. I, § 2. There are no de minimis population variations, which could practi-

Page 726

cably be avoided, that may be considered as meeting the standard of Art. I, § 2, without justification. Pp. 731-734.

(b) There is no merit to the contention that population deviation from ideal district size should be considered to be the functional equivalent of zero as a matter of law where that deviation is less than the predictable undercount in census figures. Even assuming that the extent to which the census system systematically undercounts actual population can be precisely determined, it would not be relevant. The census count provides the only reliable—albeit less than perfect—indication of the districts' "real" relative population levels, and furnishes the only basis for good-faith attempts to achieve population equality. Pp. 735-738.

(c) The population differences involved here could have been avoided or significantly reduced with a good-faith effort to achieve population equality. Resort to the simple device of transferring entire political subdivisions of known population between contiguous districts would have produced districts much closer to numerical equality. Thus the District Court did not err in finding that the plaintiffs met their burden of showing that the plan did not come as nearly as practicable to population equality. Pp. 738-740.

3. The District Court properly found that the defendants did not meet their burden of proving that the population deviations in the plan were necessary to achieve a consistent, nondiscriminatory legislative policy. The State must show with specificity that a particular objective required the specific deviations in its plans. The primary justification asserted was that of preserving the voting strength of racial minority groups, but appellants failed to show that the specific population disparities were necessary to preserve minority voting strength. Pp. 740-744.

535 F.Supp. 978, affirmed.

Kenneth J. Guido, Jr., Newark, N.J., for appellants.

Page 727

Bernard Hellring, Newark, N.J., for appellees.

Justice BRENNAN delivered the opinion of the Court.

The question presented by this appeal is whether an apportionment plan for congressional districts satisfies Art. I, § 2 without need for further justification if the population of the largest district is less than one percent greater than the population of the smallest district. A three-judge District Court declared New Jersey's 1982 reapportionment plan unconstitutional on the authority of Kirkpatrick v. Preisler, 394 U.S. 526, 89 S.Ct. 1225, 22 L.Ed.2d 519 (1969), and White v. Weiser, 412 U.S. 783, 93 S.Ct. 2348, 37 L.Ed.2d 335 (1973), because the population deviations among districts, although small, were n t the result of a good-faith effort to achieve population equality. We affirm.

I

After the results of the 1980 decennial census had been tabulated, the Clerk of the United States House of Representatives notified the Governor of New Jersey that the number of representatives to which the State was entitled had decreased from 15 to 14. Accordingly, the New Jersey Legislature was required to reapportion the State's congressional districts. The State's 199th Legislature passed two reapportionment bills. One was vetoed by the Governor, and the second, although signed into law, occasioned significant dissatisfaction among those who felt it diluted minority voting strength in the city of Newark. See App. 83-84, 86-90. In response, the 200th Legislature returned to the problem of apportioning congressional districts when it convened in January, 1982, and it swiftly passed a bill (S-711) introduced by Senator Feldman, President pro tem of the State Senate,

Page 728

which created the apportionment plan at issue in this case. The bill was signed by the Governor on January 19, 1982, becoming P.L. 1982, c. 1 (hereinafter Feldman Plan). A map of the resulting apportionment is appended infra.

Like every plan considered by the Legislature, the Feldman Plan contained 14 districts, with an average population per district (as determined by the 1980 census) of 526,059.1 Each district did not have the same population. On the average, each district differed from the "ideal" figure by 0.1384%, or about 726 people. The largest district, the Fourth District, which includes Trenton, had a population of 527,472, and the smallest, the Sixth District, embracing most of Middlesex County, a population of 523,798. The difference between them was 3,674 people, or 0.6984% of the average district. The populations of the other districts also varied. The Ninth District, including most of Bergen County, in the northeastern corner of the State, had a population of 527,349, while the population of the Third District, along the Atlantic shore, was only 524,825. App. 124.

The Legislature had before it other plans with appreciably smaller population deviations between the largest and smallest districts. The one receiving the most attention in the District Court was designed by Dr. Ernest Reock, a political science professor at Rutgers University and Director of the Bureau of Government Research. A version of the Reock

Page 729

Plan introduced in the 200th Legislature by Assemblyman Hardwick had a maximum population difference of 2,375, or 0.4514% of the average figure. App. 133.

Almost immediately after the Feldman Plan became law, a group of individuals with varying interests, including all incumbent Republican members of Congress from New Jersey, sought a declaration that the apportionment plan violated Article I, § 2 of the Constitution 2 and an injunction against proceeding with the primary election for United States Representatives under the plan. A three-judge district court was convened pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2284(a). The District Court held a hearing on Feb. 26, 1982, at which the parties submitted a number of deposition and affidavits, moved for summary judgment, and waived their right to introduce further evidence in the event the motions for summary judgment were denied.

Shortly thereafter, the District Court issued an opinion and order declaring the Feldman Plan unconstitutional. Denying the motions for summary judgment and resolving the case on the record as a whole, the District Court held that the population variances in the Feldman Plan were not "unavoidable despite a good-faith effort to achieve absolute equality," see Kirkpatrick, 394 U.S., at 531, 89 S.Ct., at 1229. The court rejected appellants' argument that a deviation lower than the statistical imprecision of the decennial census was "the functional equivalent of mathematical equality." Daggett v. Kimmelman, 535 F.Supp. 978, 982-983 (NJ 1982). It also held that appellants had failed to show that the population variances were justified by the Legislature's purported goals of preserving minor-

Page 730

ity voting strength and anticipating shifts in population. Ibid. The District Court enjoined appellants from conducting primary or general elections under the Feldman Plan, but that order was stayed pending appeal to this Court, 455 U.S. 1303, 102 S.Ct. 1298, 71 L.Ed.2d 635 (1982) (BRENNAN, Circuit Justice), and we noted probable jurisdiction, 456 U.S. ----, 102 S.Ct. 2955, 73 L.Ed.2d 1347 (1982).

II

Article I, § 2 establishes a "high standard of justice and common sense" for the apportionment of congressional districts: "equal representation for equal numbers of people." Wesberry v. Sanders, 376 U.S. 1, 18, 84 S.Ct. 526, 535, 11 L.Ed.2d...

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294 practice notes
  • City of New York v. US Dept. of Commerce, No. 88 CV 3474.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of New York)
    • June 7, 1990
    ...be as accurate as practicable." City of New York v. Dep't of Commerce, 713 F.Supp. 48, 50 (E.D.N.Y.1989). See also Karcher v. Daggett, 462 U.S. 725, 730, 103 S.Ct. 2653, 2658, 77 L.Ed.2d 133 (1983) (congressional districts must be apportioned to achieve equal population "as nearly as is pra......
  • Harris v. Ariz. Indep. Redistricting Comm'n, No. CV–12–894–PHX–ROS–NVW–RRC.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. District of Arizona
    • April 29, 2014
    ...can justify minor population deviations, so long as these criteria are “nondiscriminatory” and “consistently applied.” Karcher v. Daggett, 462 U.S. 725, 740, 103 S.Ct. 2653, 77 L.Ed.2d 133 (1983). Before requiring the state to justify its deviations, plaintiffs must make a prima facie case ......
  • Rodriguez v. Harris Cnty., Civil Action No. 4:11–2907.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Southern District of Texas
    • August 1, 2013
    ...which the population distribution deviates from the district's population-weighted center of gravity. See (Tr. 2:25); Karcher v. Daggett, 462 U.S. 725, 756 n. 19, 103 S.Ct. 2653, 77 L.Ed.2d 133 (1983) (Stevens, J.) (concurring); see also Polsby and Popper, The Third Criterion, 9 Yale L. & P......
  • Franklin v. Massachusetts, No. 91-1502
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 26, 1992
    ...eliminating overseas employees entirely from the state counts will make representation in Congress more equal. Cf. Karcher v. Daggett, 462 U.S. 725, 730-731, 103 S.Ct. 2653, 2658, 77 L.Ed.2d 133 (1983) (parties challenging state apportionment legislation bear burden of proving disparate rep......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
296 cases
  • City of New York v. US Dept. of Commerce, No. 88 CV 3474.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of New York)
    • June 7, 1990
    ...be as accurate as practicable." City of New York v. Dep't of Commerce, 713 F.Supp. 48, 50 (E.D.N.Y.1989). See also Karcher v. Daggett, 462 U.S. 725, 730, 103 S.Ct. 2653, 2658, 77 L.Ed.2d 133 (1983) (congressional districts must be apportioned to achieve equal population "as nearly as is pra......
  • Harris v. Ariz. Indep. Redistricting Comm'n, No. CV–12–894–PHX–ROS–NVW–RRC.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. District of Arizona
    • April 29, 2014
    ...can justify minor population deviations, so long as these criteria are “nondiscriminatory” and “consistently applied.” Karcher v. Daggett, 462 U.S. 725, 740, 103 S.Ct. 2653, 77 L.Ed.2d 133 (1983). Before requiring the state to justify its deviations, plaintiffs must make a prima facie case ......
  • Rodriguez v. Harris Cnty., Civil Action No. 4:11–2907.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Southern District of Texas
    • August 1, 2013
    ...which the population distribution deviates from the district's population-weighted center of gravity. See (Tr. 2:25); Karcher v. Daggett, 462 U.S. 725, 756 n. 19, 103 S.Ct. 2653, 77 L.Ed.2d 133 (1983) (Stevens, J.) (concurring); see also Polsby and Popper, The Third Criterion, 9 Yale L. & P......
  • Franklin v. Massachusetts, No. 91-1502
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 26, 1992
    ...eliminating overseas employees entirely from the state counts will make representation in Congress more equal. Cf. Karcher v. Daggett, 462 U.S. 725, 730-731, 103 S.Ct. 2653, 2658, 77 L.Ed.2d 133 (1983) (parties challenging state apportionment legislation bear burden of proving disparate rep......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
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