U.S. v. State of La., 96-1903.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Western District of Louisiana
Citation952 F.Supp. 1151
Docket NumberNo. 96-1903.,96-1903.
PartiesUNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff, v. STATE OF LOUISIANA; Walter Fox McKeithen in his official capacity as the Secretary of State of Louisiana; Richard R. Ieyoub in his official capacity as the Attorney General of Louisiana; City of Shreveport; Shreveport City Court; Robert W. Williams in his official capacity as Mayor of the City of Shreveport; Virginia Hester in her official capacity as the Clerk of Shreveport City Court; Ernest Roberson in his official capacity as the Registrar of Voters of Caddo Parish, Louisiana; and William T. Johnston in his official capacity as the Registrar of Voters of Bossier Parish, Louisiana, Defendants.
Decision Date24 January 1997

Robert G. Pugh, Pugh Pugh & Pugh, Shreveport, LA, for City of Shreveport, City Court of Shreveport, Robert W. Williams, Virginia Hester.

Before STEWART, Circuit Judge, and LITTLE and DOHERTY, District Judges.

STEWART, Circuit Judge:

We are convened pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1973c and 28 U.S.C. § 2284 to perform a narrowly defined task — determine whether the City of Shreveport, Louisiana (City) and the State of Louisiana (State) have properly complied with the preclearance requirements of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The United States asks us to issue a preliminary injunction that would prevent two elected incumbent candidates for Divisions A and B of the City Court of Shreveport from receiving their commissions to serve another six-year term. Specifically, the United States claims that the geographical jurisdiction of the City Court had been enlarged pursuant to annexations which had not been precleared in accordance with § 5 of the Voting Rights Act.

The City has also filed three motions with this Court. First, the City has moved to dismiss this case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Second, the City claims that the United States has failed to state a claim for which relief could be granted. Specifically, the City claims that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is unconstitutional. Third, the City seeks an order compelling the United States to respond to various discovery requests for information concerning the Attorney General's decision to deny preclearance for the City Court annexations.

Because we found that the United States had met the requirements for issuing a preliminary injunction, we issued an injunction on December 20, 1996 compelling the State and the City to seek a declaratory judgment in the District Court for the District of Columbia. In the meantime, the elected judges shall holdover in their offices, without new six-year commissions, until the City and State obtain judicial preclearance for the City Court annexations. We denied the City's three motions because we did not have jurisdiction to hear the claims asserted in the motions.

We write today to amplify our reasons for granting the injunction and denying the City's motions.

FACTS

Our story begins in 1976, when the City submitted for review to the Attorney General annexations affecting the City. In its submission, the City did not specifically state that it was seeking preclearance for any particular political office within the City. United States' Post-Hearing Brief, Exh. A. In 1978, the City sought preclearance for more annexations and the City Charter of the City. In the 1978 letter, the City made reference to the City Council and the Mayor in its discussion of the City Charter. Id. The City did not mention the effect of the annexations on the Shreveport City Court. In response to the City's request, the Justice Department understood the City's submission as follows:

This is in reference to 14 annexations adopted between November 1, 1964 and January 1, 1966; 16 annexations adopted between January 27, 1976 and February 14, 1978; Resolution No. 546 of 1976 (August 24, 1976), creating the City Government Committee; the adoption of a strong mayor form of government, with a seven-member city council with members elected from single-member districts, and the boundaries of those districts; and a special election to be held May 13, 1978; submitted by the City of Shreveport to the Attorney General pursuant to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Letter from Assistant Attorney General Drew S. Days III to John Gallagher, Legal Department, City of Shreveport, May 12, 1978. Based on this understanding, the Attorney General precleared the requested annexations and the City Charter, although the Attorney General reserved his right to pursue "subsequent judicial action to enjoin the enforcement of such changes." Id.1 Both parties agree that this letter indicated that the Attorney General precleared (1) the annexations as they affected the City Council elections and (2) the City Charter.

From what we gather from the record before us, it was not until 1989 that the Justice Department discovered that the elections to the Shreveport City Court included the annexed territories the Justice Department had earlier precleared for the Shreveport City Council. On January 3, 1989, the State, on behalf of the City, submitted for review Act No. 15 (1970), which created a third judicial position for the Shreveport City Court (Division C). On July 17, 1989, the State submitted for § 5 review Louisiana Act No. 6 (1968), which provided for the expansion of the boundaries of the Shreveport City Court to include annexations to the corporate limits of Shreveport. At that point, the Attorney General was unable to make a determination regarding the submitted voting changes because numerous annexations to the City Court's jurisdiction had not been submitted. The Justice Department requested and was provided additional information about the proposed change. In a September 1989 letter, the Justice Department stated:

We understand that there have been several annexations to the Shreveport City Court, pursuant to Act No. 6 (1968). Our records fail to show that these changes have been submitted to the United States District Court for the District of Columbia for judicial review or to the Attorney General for administrative review as required by Section 5. If our information is correct, it is necessary that these changes either be brought before the District Court for the District of Columbia or submitted to the Attorney General for a determination that the changes do not have the purpose and will not have the effect of discriminating on account of race or color.

On July 21, 1992, the State, on behalf of the City, submitted for § 5 review Louisiana Act No. 501 (1992), which created a fourth City Court judicial position (Division D). Act No. 501 also provided for a change in the City Court method of election from at-large to one multimember and one single-member district. The Attorney General was again unable to make a determination regarding the submitted voting changes because numerous annexations to the City Court's jurisdiction had not been submitted. On September 18, 1992, the Attorney General informed the City that no determination was possible and requested once more that the unprecleared annexations be submitted for § 5 review.

On April 5, 1993, the City submitted for § 5 review 321 annexations to the boundaries and jurisdiction of the City Court that had been implemented between 1967 and 1992. On June 4, 1993, the Attorney General requested that the City send additional information so that a determination could be made. On June 21, 1994, the City submitted six more annexations that expanded the City Court's boundaries and jurisdiction. At the same time, Louisiana Acts No. 6 (1968), No. 15 (1970), and No. 501 (1992) were resubmitted for review. On July 6, 1994, the City submitted the additional information necessary to complete the submission of all of these voting changes.

In 1994, the parties came to loggerheads. On September 6, 1994, the Attorney General interposed a timely objection under § 5 to the submitted annexations to the City Court boundaries and to the voting changes caused by Acts No. 6, No. 15, and No. 501. The objection letter stated that the proposed changes effectuated an eleven percentage-point decrease in black voting strength. United States' Orig. Complaint, Exh. A. The letter asked that the State inform officials of the United States Justice Department of its plans for the City Court elections. Id.

The State then did an about-face. In a September 16, 1994 letter from the Assistant Attorney General of Louisiana, the State, for the first time, argued that § 5 preclearance of the annexations to the City Court was unnecessary because the Attorney General had previously precleared annexations for the City Council elections. State of Louisiana's Orig.Brief, Exh. 1. Therefore, argued the State, elections for Divisions A and B of the City Court could be held using boundaries that included the annexations. On December 11, 1995, the State also requested that the Attorney General reconsider the objections to the judicial positions created in 1970 and 1992 and to the new election system of one single-member district and one multi-member district.

On February 9, 1996, the Attorney General denied the State's request for reconsideration and refused to withdraw the September 6, 1994 objections, including the objection to annexations expanding the City Court boundaries for Divisions A and B. The Attorney General also...

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