Seamon v. Upham

Decision Date27 February 1982
Docket NumberCiv. A. No. P-81-49-CA.
Citation536 F. Supp. 931
PartiesA. M. SEAMON v. Chet UPHAM, et al.
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of Texas




Leighton Cornett, Paris, Tex., for plaintiff.

David R. Richards, Austin, Tex., for Juanita Craft, et al.

Luis M. Segura, Jesse Roy Botello, San Antonio, Tex., for M. Garcia, A. Luna, A. Gonzales, B. Eureste, R. Padilla, R. Palomo, M. Tamez, R. Cristan and H. DeHoyos.

George J. Korbel, Jose Camacho, Austin, Tex., Richard Gonzales, Alpha Hernandez, Rolando Menchaca, Texas Rural Legal Aid, Inc., Del Rio, Tex., Raul Noriega, Texas Rural Legal Aid, Inc., San Antonio, Tex., for B. Gonzales, A. Dolorosa and J. Adame.

Joaquin G. Avila, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, San Antonio, Tex., for A. Garcia and J. Rodriguez.

Rafael Quintanilla, Jr., Austin, Tex., for Democratic Party of Texas.

Mark White, Atty. Gen., Austin, Tex., for plaintiff.

John M. Harmon & R. James George, Jr., Graves, Dougherty, Hearon & Moody, Austin, Tex., for Eric Clifford and Chester Upham.

Robert C. Slagle, Jr., Sherman, Tex., pro se.

R. C. Slagle, III, Sherman, Tex., for Brady Fisher.

Steve Bickerstaff, Richard E. Gray, III, Asst. Atty. Gen., Austin, Tex., for William Clement, Geo. Strake, State of Texas.

James Allison, Asst. Atty. Gen., Austin, Tex., for Roger Peterson and Margaret Coplin.

Before SAM D. JOHNSON, Circuit Judge, JUSTICE, Chief District Judge, and PARKER, District Judge.


SAM D. JOHNSON, Circuit Judge:

Since the Supreme Court's 1962 decision in Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 82 S.Ct. 691, 7 L.Ed.2d 663 (1962), federal courts have found themselves undesirably in the center of the "political thicket" of congressional and legislative apportionment. This Court finds itself in just such a position.

The first called session of the 67th Legislature of Texas enacted Senate Bill No. 1 (S.B. 1), which apportioned Texas into twenty-seven single-member congressional districts, on August 10, 1981. The enactment was signed by the Governor of Texas on August 14, 1981. Tex.Rev.Civ.Stat.Ann. art. 197f (Vernon Supp. 1981). Since Texas is a jurisdiction covered by the submission and preclearance provisions of section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1973c (1976); Briscoe v. Bell, 432 U.S. 404, 97 S.Ct. 2428, 53 L.Ed.2d 439, S.B. 1 was submitted to the Attorney General of the United States for preclearance on or about September 11, 1981.1

Prior to any objection or affirmative indication that an objection would not be interposed to S.B. 1 by the Attorney General of the United States, suit was filed in the federal district court for the Eastern District of Texas against the State of Texas and several state officials. Numerous plaintiffs were allowed to intervene in the suit, which presented the question of whether S.B. 1 constituted an impermissible gerrymander that resulted in the dilution of minority voting strength. One group of minorities argued basically it was "packed" into a single congressional district in order to minimize the political influence it had enjoyed previously. A group of minorities from another area of the State argued S.B. 1 "fragmented" the minority population in order to decrease its voting strength. Plaintiffs challenged the constitutionality of S.B. 1 under the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments of the United States Constitution. In addition, plaintiffs claimed the legislation violated section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. 42 U.S.C. § 1973 (1976).

This three-judge court was empaneled pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2284 (1976). On November 30, 1981, this Court held an evidentiary hearing. At the three-day hearing, the parties presented evidence relevant to the issues involved in the constitutional and statutory challenge to S.B. 1. At the conclusion of the hearing, the Court took the case under advisement, recognizing that congressional reapportionment plans enacted by the State of Texas are not effective as law unless and until they receive clearance pursuant to section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Accordingly, this Court withheld deciding and addressing the constitutionality of S.B. 1 until appropriate action was taken by the Attorney General of the United States. See Wise v. Lipscomb, 437 U.S. 535, 98 S.Ct. 2493, 2497-98, 57 L.Ed.2d 411 (1978) citing Connor v. Finch, 431 U.S. 407, 97 S.Ct. 1828, 1832, 52 L.Ed.2d 465 (1977) and Connor v. Waller, 421 U.S. 656, 95 S.Ct. 2003, 44 L.Ed.2d 486 (1975).

On January 25, 1982, this Court entered an order postponing the filing deadline for prospective candidates for the office of representative to United States Congress for sixteen of twenty-seven congressional districts, as those districts were defined by S.B. 1, until February 22, 1982.2 The Texas Election Code, Tex.Elec.Code Ann. art. 13.12(c) (Vernon Supp.1981), provides that an application to have one's name placed on the ballot as a candidate for nomination by a political party shall be filed no later than 6:00 p. m. on the first Monday in February preceding the date of the primary election. See also Texas Educ.Code Ann. art. 11.22(e) (Vernon Supp.1981). Consequently, the filing deadline in the year 1982 was Monday, February 1. This Court's action was taken as a result of its opinion that such action was necessary because of the delay by the Attorney General of the United States in meeting his obligations under section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. This delay placed the people of the State of Texas in the awkward position of facing filing deadlines for United States congressional offices that were to be filled by elections that, because the United States Attorney General had failed to preclear the relevant legislative enactment, would be unenforceable. 42 U.S.C. § 1973c.

The Attorney General of the United States did interpose an objection to S.B. 1 as provided for in 42 U.S.C. § 1973c by letter dated January 29, 1982 to the Secretary of State of the State of Texas. January 29, 1982, a Friday, was only three days prior to the February 1, 1982, filing deadline. It was, however, some 140 days after the initial information was submitted to the office of the United States Attorney General by the State of Texas.3

The effect of the objection to S.B. 1 by the Attorney General of the United States was to render implementation of S.B. 1's provisions legally unenforceable. 42 U.S.C. § 1973c. Accordingly, this Court, on February 2, 1982, ordered that a hearing be set to determine the extent of this Court's jurisdiction in the case sub judice. In addition, assuming the Court's jurisdiction and the need for implementing a court-ordered congressional apportionment plan, the parties were ordered to provide written submissions along with maps, plats, or other relevant data.

Such a hearing was held on February 9, 1982. At that time, the Court granted plaintiffs' motions to amend their complaints to include challenges to the congressional apportionment plan that S.B. 1 was meant to supplant. This plan, based upon 1970 census figures, was instituted after substantial litigation. See Graves v. Barnes, 343 F.Supp. 704 (W.D.Tex.1972); Graves v. Barnes, 378 F.Supp. 640 (W.D. Tex.1973); Graves v. Barnes, 408 F.Supp. 1050 (W.D.Tex.1976); Graves v. Barnes, 446 F.Supp. 560 (W.D.Tex.1977); White v. Weiser, 412 U.S. 783, 93 S.Ct. 2348, 37 L.Ed.2d 335 (1973). This existing congressional apportionment plan provides for only twenty-four districts. In addition, utilizing 1980 census data, its districts have an average deviation of ± 17 percent from the ideal population for a congressional district and a deviation of ± 84.3 percent at its extremes. Because of the obvious constitutional inadequacies of this plan, this Court was asked by the parties to this litigation, including the State of Texas, to exercise equitable jurisdiction and devise and implement a congressional apportionment plan that would include twenty-seven congressional districts and satisfy constitutional requirements.4

Subsequent to the February 9, 1982 hearing, this Court entered a second order postponing the filing deadline for prospective candidates for representative to the United States Congress. The deadlines were postponed until 6:00 p. m. on March 19, 1982. This order, dated February 15, 1982, affected only the sixteen congressional districts, as they were defined by either S.B. 1 or otherwise, that were affected by the January 25, 1982 order.5 It also enjoined the State of Texas from holding any election for the purpose of choosing any congressional representative from the State of Texas. The injunction was to be in force and effect until this Court implemented a court-ordered congressional apportionment plan or took other action it deemed appropriate.

This Court recognizes the clear directives of the Supreme Court that the task of reapportioning congressional districts belongs to the state legislature in the first instance and the federal courts should make every effort not to preempt the state legislature's primary jurisdiction and responsibility. See Wise v. Lipscomb, 98 S.Ct. at 2497; Connor v. Williams, 404 U.S. 549, 92 S.Ct. 656, 658 n.4, 30 L.Ed.2d 704 (1972); White v. Weiser, 93 S.Ct. at 2354; Ely v. Klahr, 403 U.S. 108, 91 S.Ct. 1803, 1807, 29 L.Ed.2d 352 (1971); Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533, 84 S.Ct. 1362, 12 L.Ed.2d 506 (1964). The Texas State Legislature, however, is the only state body empowered to enact a new congressional apportionment plan.6 There has been no action taken by the Governor of Texas to call a special session of the Legislature, which meets biennially and is not scheduled to convene again until 1983. To the contrary, the Governor, through his attorneys, has requested this Court to implement a congressional apportionment plan of its own.

In the absence of a congressional apportionment plan that has been precleared pursuant to section 5, the Voting Rights Act ...

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