Simkins v. Gressette

Decision Date22 September 1980
Docket NumberNo. 80-1370,80-1370
Citation631 F.2d 287
PartiesModjeska M. SIMKINS, F. B. Drakeford, Billie S. Flemming, Freddie Jolley, Isaac W. Williams, Dorothy Drakeford, Lenny Springs, Frank Gilbert, S. T. Peden, Hyland Davis, and Marva Smalls, Individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs, v. L. Marion GRESSETTE, Individually, in his official capacity as President Pro Tempore of the Senate of South Carolina, and as a representative of the class of members of the Senate of South Carolina, Richard W. Riley, Individually and in his capacity as Governor of South Carolina, Fredinan Stevenson, Individually and in her capacity as President of the South Carolina Senate, Rex L. Carter, Individually and in his official capacity as Speaker of the South Carolina House of Representatives, and as a representative of the class of members of the South Carolina House of Representatives, H. Ray Ham, Margaret Townsend, Zilla Hinton, James O. Brown, and Neal D. Thigpen, Individually and in their capacities as members of the South Carolina State Election Commission, Daniel I. Ross, Jr., Chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party, and Donald L. Fowler, Chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party, Individually and as representatives of the class of officers of duly certified political parties of South Carolina, Defendants.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Fourth Circuit

Mordecai C. Johnson, Florence, S.C., Fred Henderson Moore, Charleston, S.C. (Edward Brown, Charleston, S.C., John R. Harper, II, Columbia, S.C., W. Newton Pough, Orangeberg, S.C., on brief), for appellants.

Robert Guild, Columbia, S.C. (Warren & Pitts, Allendale, S.C., on brief), for Tom Turnipseed, etc.

Randall T. Bell, Columbia, S.C. (Daniel R. McLeod, Atty. Gen., Treva G. Ashworth, Senior Asst. Atty. Gen., Bernard Manning, Elliott D. Thompson, Columbia, S.C., on brief), for appellees.

Before WIDENER and ERVIN, Circuit Judges. *

WIDENER, Circuit Judge:

Appellants are eleven black citizens and registered voters of the State of South Carolina. 1 They filed this action against various South Carolina officials and against the chairmen of the State Democratic and Republican parties, alleging that South Carolina's present senate reapportionment plan dilutes their vote in violation of the First, Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth amendments to the United States Constitution and 42 U.S.C. §§ 1971, 1973 and 1983. They sought to have a three-judge district court convened pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2284, 2 to have the reapportionment plan declared unconstitutional, and to enjoin its enforcement.

1980 is an election year for the South Carolina State Senate. Plaintiffs filed their complaint March 14, 1980, two days before the opening of the filing period set by statute 3 for candidates seeking nomination through the State primaries. They sought a temporary restraining order to enjoin the opening of the filing period until a three-judge district court could be convened. The district court denied such motion. The defendants filed a motion under FRCP 12(b) to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. After an expedited hearing, the district court, 495 F.Supp. 1075, denied plaintiffs' request for the convening of a three-judge court and dismissed their complaint. They appeal from that order.

The senate reapportionment plan under attack here was adopted by the South Carolina legislature in 1972 following the decision in McCollum v. West, 4 which struck down as unconstitutional the South Carolina Senate reapportionment plan drawn up after the 1970 census as being in violation of the one man, one vote requirement of the Fourteenth Amendment as set out in Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533, 84 S.Ct. 1362, 12 L.Ed.2d 506 (1964). It had also been challenged as unconstitutionally diluting the black vote through its multi-member districts, numbered seats and majority runoff requirements. As a result of the McCollum decision, the State legislature provided more than one plan for judicial consideration. Plan A, submitted by the legislature, was subsequently approved by the McCollum court and ordered used for the conducting of the South Carolina Senate elections until revised by the State's General Assembly, or until the next census, or until further order of that court. The McCollum plaintiffs sought to vacate that order, alleging among other things, that the court did not consider the effect of the plan on racial minorities. The court denied their motion and stated at page 2 of its June 9, 1972 order that:

Although the Court decided that Plan A complies with the guidelines of the Court's earlier order, the order of May 23 adopting Plan A expressly noted that elections should be held in conformity with Plan A until "further order of this Court."

Any party seeking to challenge Plan A may, of course, bring an action seeking further relief. If such a party can prove Plan A constitutionally infirm based on facts not previously presented to this Court, relief would not be barred by the doctrine of res judicata.

Plan A, enacted as Act No. 1205, 5 is here challenged on the grounds that its provision for multi-member senatorial districts, with numbered seats and a majority runoff requirement in primary elections, impermissibly dilutes the black vote in South Carolina. In their complaint, plaintiffs allege that no black State Senators have been elected since the Reconstruction; that a consistent pattern of racial polarization exists in the State, making race the single most significant factor in an election; that multi-member districts have an adverse effect on the black vote because no black running since 1972 has gotten a political party nomination in a contested primary or been elected to the State Senate in a general election even though he received a majority of the black vote; that the numbered seat requirements further minimize the opportunity for blacks to elect the candidates of their choice; that South Carolina has a long history of racial discrimination in many facets of life; that the South Carolina legislature has ignored its affirmative duty to eliminate practices that dilute the black vote; that no interest greater than their Fifteenth Amendment rights are served by the present plan; that 30% of the population of South Carolina is black; that the purpose and effect of the plan is to dilute the black vote; that the use of county boundaries, numbered seats and majority runoffs further dilute the black vote; that the political parties in South Carolina have relied upon tactics designed to dilute the black vote; that blacks have suffered as a result of this plan; that blacks have less opportunity than whites to participate in the political process and elect representatives of their choice; and that the present plan was enacted with the purpose and effect of racial discrimination.

The district court denied appellants' request for a three-judge court and dismissed their complaint, relying primarily on Maryland Citizens for a Representative General Assembly v. Governor of Maryland, 429 F.2d 606 (4th Cir. 1970). In that case we established the guidelines to be used by a single judge in determining whether to convene a three-judge court. Section 2284(b)(1) requires convening of a three-judge district court when a suit is filed that challenges the constitutionality of the apportionment of a congressional district or any statewide legislative body unless the single judge "determines that three judges are not required." In Maryland Citizens we stated at 611 that:

If it appears to the single district judge that the complaint does not state a substantial claim for injunctive relief, he need not request the convening of a three-judge court. Insubstantiality in the claim may appear because of the absence of federal jurisdiction, lack of substantive merit in the constitutional claim, or because injunctive relief is otherwise unavailable.

Based on such language, the district court found that injunctive relief would not be available to the plaintiffs primarily because of their delay in filing this action and because of the impending 1980 census that would likely require reapportionment. Holding that general equitable principles would prevent a three-judge court from granting relief, the district court determined that it would be inappropriate to convene such a court. The district court then went further to determine whether plaintiffs' factual allegations were so compelling that equity should be disregarded and a three-judge court convened. Based upon City of Mobile v. Bolden, 446 U.S. 55, 100 S.Ct. 1490, 64 L.Ed.2d 47 (1980), and the prior decision in McCollum, the court found no reason to require the convening of a three-judge court.

Plaintiffs claim that Maryland Citizens is no longer good law in light of Goosby v. Osser, 409 U.S. 512, 93 S.Ct. 854, 35 L.Ed.2d 36 (1973), and therefore the district court erred in its reliance on it. We find, however, that the plaintiffs have not stated a substantial claim, and that the district court did not commit reversible error in denying their request for the convening of a three-judge court. As an alternate ground for our decision, we find that the district court correctly applied Maryland Citizens in its denial of relief to the plaintiffs.

Briefly, Act No. 1205 provides for the reapportionment of South Carolina's forty-six counties into sixteen senatorial districts for election of the State's forty-six senators. 6 Three are single member districts and the remainder are multi-member districts containing two to five senators from each of those districts. Each seat is separately numbered, with candidates eligible to run for only one seat. South Carolina Code § 7-17-600 provides that a majority of the votes cast are necessary for nomination in a primary election. Plaintiffs challenge all facets of this plan.

The McCollum court had struck down the predecessor...

To continue reading

Request your trial
29 cases
  • Jeffers v. Clinton, H-C-89-004.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Eastern District of Arkansas
    • January 26, 1990
    ... ... Id. at 610-11 ...         Similarly, the court in Simkins v. Gressette, 631 F.2d 287 (4th Cir.1980), upheld the district court's dismissal of an apportionment challenge that was filed two days before the ... ...
  • Thomas v. Bryant
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Fifth Circuit
    • September 3, 2019
    ... ... 60 See, e.g. , Dickinson , 933 F.2d at 499502 (suit filed eight months before general election); Simkins v. Gressette , 631 F.2d 287, 289 (4th Cir. 1980) (suit filed two days before the start of the candidate-qualifying period and eight months before ... ...
  • State ex rel. Cooper v. Tennant
    • United States
    • West Virginia Supreme Court
    • July 20, 2012
    ... ... 817 F.Supp. at 624, n. 8; see also Simkins v. Gressette, 631 F.2d 287, 291 (4th Cir.1980) (finding that [t]he authorities do not interdict multi-member districts). The Holloway court also ... ...
  • Ariz. Minority Coalition v. Ariz. Redistricting
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Arizona
    • April 7, 2005
    ... ... See Simkins" v. Gressette, 631 F.2d 287, 295 (4th Cir.1980) (noting that convening a three-judge court is not required to address insubstantial claims) ...  \xC2" ... ...
  • 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