Sailors v. Board of Education of County of Kent, No. 430

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtDOUGLAS
Citation387 U.S. 105,87 S.Ct. 1549,18 L.Ed.2d 650
Docket NumberNo. 430
Decision Date22 May 1967
PartiesJames SAILORS et al., Appellants, v. BOARD OF EDUCATION OF the COUNTY OF KENT et al

387 U.S. 105
87 S.Ct. 1549
18 L.Ed.2d 650
James SAILORS et al., Appellants,

v.

BOARD OF EDUCATION OF the COUNTY OF KENT et al.

No. 430.
Argued April 17 and 18, 1967.
Decided May 22, 1967.

Wendell A. Miles, Grand Rapids, Mich., for appellants.

Paul O. Strawhecke, Grand Rapids, Mich., for appellees.

Francis X. Beytagh, Jr., Cleveland, Ohio, for the United States, as amicus curiae, pro hac vice, by special leave of Court.

Page 106

Mr. Justice DOUGLAS delivered the opinion of the Court.

Appellants, qualified and registered electors of Kent County, Michigan, brought this suit in the Federal District Court to enjoin the Board of Education of Kent County from detaching certain schools from the city of Grand Rapids and attaching them to Kent County, to declare the county board to be unconstitutionally constituted, and to enjoin further elections until the electoral system is redesigned. Attack is also made on the adequacy of the statutory standards governing decisions of the county board in light of the requirements of due process. We need not bother with the intricate problems of state law involved in the dispute. For the federal posture of the case is a very limited one. The people of Michigan (qualified school electors) elect the local school boards.1 No constitutional question is presented as respects those election. The alleged constitutional questions arise when it comes to the county school board. It is chosen, not be the electors of the county, but by delegates from the local boards. Each board sends a delegate to a biennial meeting and those delegates elect

Page 107

a county board of five members, who need not be members of the local boards,2 from candidates nominated by school electors. It is argued that this system of choosing county board members parallels the countyunit system which we invalidated under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment in Gray v. Sanders, 372 U.S. 368, 83 S.Ct. 801, 9 L.Ed.2d 821 and violates the principle of 'one man, one vote' which we held in that case and in Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533, 84 S.Ct. 1362, 12 L.Ed.2d 506, was constitutionally required in state elections. A vast array of facts is assembled showing alleged inequities in a system which gives one vote to every local school board (irrespective of population, wealth, etc.) in the selection of the county board. A three-judge court was convened, and it held by a divided vote that the method of constitution of the county board did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment. 254 F.Supp. 17. We noted probable jurisdiction, 385 U.S. 966, 87 S.Ct. 499, 17 L.Ed.2d 431.

We conclude that a three-judge court was properly convened, for unlike the situation in Moody v. Flowers, 387 U.S. 97, 87 S.Ct. 1544, 18 L.Ed.2d 643, this is a case where the state statute that is challenged3 applies generally to all Michigan county school boards of the type described.

We start with what we said in Reynolds v. Sims, supra, at 575, 84 S.Ct. at 1388:

'Political subdivisions of States—counties, cities or whatever—never were and never have been considered as sovereign entities. Rather, they have been traditionally regarded as subordinate governmental

Page 108

instrumentalities created by the State to assist in the caryi ng out of state governmental function. As stated by the Court in Hunter v. City of Pittsburgh, 207 U.S. 161, 178, (28 S.Ct. 40, 52 L.Ed. 151,) these governmental units are 'created as convenient agencies for exercising such of the governmental powers of the state, as may be entrusted to them,' and the 'number, nature and duration of the powers conferred upon (them) * * * and the territory over which they shall be exercised rests in the absolute discretion of the state."

We find no constitutional reason why state or local officers of the nonlegislative character involved here may not be chosen by the governor, by the legislature, or by some other appointive means rather than by an election. Our cases have, in the main, dealt with elections for United States Senator or Congressman (Gray v. Sanders, supra; Wesberry v. Sanders, 376 U.S. 1, 84 S.Ct. 526, 11 L.Ed.2d 481) or for state officers4 (Gray v. Sanders, supra) or for state legislators. Reynolds v. Sims, supra; WMCA, Inc. v. Lomenzo, 377 U.S. 633, 84 S.Ct. 1418, 12 L.Ed.2d 568; Davis v. Mann, 377 U.S. 678, 84 S.Ct. 1441, 12 L.Ed.2d 609; Roman v. Sincock, 377 U.S. 695, 84 S.Ct. 1449, 12 L.Ed.2d 620; Lucas v. Forty-Fourth Gen. Assembly of State of Colo., 377 U.S. 713, 84 S.Ct. 1459, 12 L.Ed.2d 632; Marshall v. Hare, 378 U.S. 561, 84 S.Ct. 1912, 12 L.Ed.2d 1036.

They were all cases where elections had been provided and cast no light on when a State must provide for the election of local officials.

A State cannot of course manipulate its political subdivisions so as to defeat a federally protected right, as for example, by realigning political subdivisions so as to deny a person his vote...

To continue reading

Request your trial
261 practice notes
  • Warden v. Pataki, No. 97 CIV. 7027 (MBM).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • February 11, 1999
    ...however, has no applicability when the governmental body at issue is appointive rather than elective. See Sailors v. Board of Educ., 387 U.S. 105, 111, 87 S.Ct. 1549, 18 L.Ed.2d 650 (1967) ("Since the choice of members of the county school board did not involve an election ..., the principl......
  • Curtis v. Board of Supervisors
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • September 19, 1972
    ...Supreme Court applied the one-man, one-vote rule to an elected school board although an earlier case, Sailors v. Board of Education (1967) 387 U.S. 105, 87 S.Ct. 1549, 18 L.Ed.2d 650, had confirmed that school boards need not be elected. Phoenix, Ariz. v. Kolodziejski (1970) 399 U.S. 204, 9......
  • Southern Cal. Rapid Transit Dist. v. Bolen, No. S015986
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • January 30, 1992
    ...old and new devices, great flexibility in municipal arrangements to meet changing urban conditions." (Sailors v. Board of Education (1967) 387 U.S. 105, 110-111, 87 S.Ct. 1549, 1553, 18 L.Ed.2d 650.) In the circumstances of this case, combining an old device with a new setting, we see "noth......
  • Calderon v. City of Los Angeles
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • March 2, 1971
    ...(1967) 387 U.S. 112, 87 S.Ct. 1554, 18 L.Ed.2d 656) or officials who were appointed, not elected. (Sailors v. Board of Education (1967) 387 U.S. 105, 87 S.Ct. 1549, 18 L.Ed.2d 650.) Such cases hardly support a contention that popularly elected representatives, chosen from individual distric......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
261 cases
  • Warden v. Pataki, No. 97 CIV. 7027 (MBM).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • February 11, 1999
    ...however, has no applicability when the governmental body at issue is appointive rather than elective. See Sailors v. Board of Educ., 387 U.S. 105, 111, 87 S.Ct. 1549, 18 L.Ed.2d 650 (1967) ("Since the choice of members of the county school board did not involve an election ..., the principl......
  • Curtis v. Board of Supervisors
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • September 19, 1972
    ...Supreme Court applied the one-man, one-vote rule to an elected school board although an earlier case, Sailors v. Board of Education (1967) 387 U.S. 105, 87 S.Ct. 1549, 18 L.Ed.2d 650, had confirmed that school boards need not be elected. Phoenix, Ariz. v. Kolodziejski (1970) 399 U.S. 204, 9......
  • Southern Cal. Rapid Transit Dist. v. Bolen, No. S015986
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • January 30, 1992
    ...old and new devices, great flexibility in municipal arrangements to meet changing urban conditions." (Sailors v. Board of Education (1967) 387 U.S. 105, 110-111, 87 S.Ct. 1549, 1553, 18 L.Ed.2d 650.) In the circumstances of this case, combining an old device with a new setting, we see "noth......
  • Calderon v. City of Los Angeles
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • March 2, 1971
    ...(1967) 387 U.S. 112, 87 S.Ct. 1554, 18 L.Ed.2d 656) or officials who were appointed, not elected. (Sailors v. Board of Education (1967) 387 U.S. 105, 87 S.Ct. 1549, 18 L.Ed.2d 650.) Such cases hardly support a contention that popularly elected representatives, chosen from individual distric......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT