Vaughan v. Lewisville Indep. Sch. Dist.

Decision Date31 July 2020
Docket NumberCIVIL NO. 4:19-CV-109-SDJ
Citation475 F.Supp.3d 589
Parties Frank VAUGHAN v. LEWISVILLE INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of Texas

Donna P. Zinke, Michael Joseph Collins, William Andrew Brewer, III, Brewer, Attorneys & Counselors, Dallas, TX, for Frank Vaughan.

Meredith Prykryl Walker, Walsh Gallegos Trevino Russo & Kyle PC, Irving, TX, Christine Smith Badillo, Walsh Anderson Brown Gallegos & Green PC, Austin, TX, Donald Craig Wood, Walsh Gallegos Trevino Russo & Kyle PC, San Antonio, TX, for Lewisville Independent School District.

MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

SEAN D. JORDAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

Frank Vaughan has been an active member of the Lewisville, Texas community for years. During that time, he has been particularly interested in the Lewisville Independent School District ("LISD"), from which his children graduated and where his late wife worked for many years. Specifically, he is concerned that certain geographic segments of LISD, located in areas that he claims are primarily comprised of economically disadvantaged and minority students, suffer from a lack of representation on the LISD Board of Trustees. Vaughan attributes the lack of representation to the at-large electoral system currently employed by LISD, which he claims denies equal voting opportunity to minority groups.

Following unsuccessful efforts to convince LISD's Board of Trustees to transition to single-member voting districts, Vaughan filed this lawsuit seeking declaratory and injunctive relief, asserting that LISD's at-large electoral system runs afoul of section 2 of the Voting Rights Act ("VRA") and the Fourteenth and the Fifteenth Amendments. Vaughan specifically claims that LISD's at-large electoral system impermissibly affords "African Americans, Hispanics, and Asians ... less opportunity than other LISD voters to meaningfully participate in the electoral process and to elect representatives of their choice." (Dkt. #1 ¶ 59). The problem is that Vaughan, a white male voter, is not a member of any of these minority groups.

For this reason, LISD filed its summary-judgment motion arguing that Vaughan cannot establish an injury in fact under Article III and therefore lacks standing to pursue his claims. (Dkt. #40). LISD further argues that, even if Vaughan has standing, his claims fail because there is no genuine issue of material fact that Vaughan cannot meet certain threshold conditions for establishing a section 2 violation under Thornburg v. Gingles , 478 U.S. 30, 106 S.Ct. 2752, 92 L.Ed.2d 25 (1986). Vaughan filed a response, (Dkt. #45), to which LISD replied, (Dkt. #48). Vaughan also submitted an additional sur-reply. (Dkt. #53). The Court, having considered the parties’ briefing, the record, and the applicable law, concludes that Vaughan lacks standing to bring this lawsuit. The Court will therefore GRANT the summary-judgment motion and DISMISS this case for lack of jurisdiction.1

I.

The LISD Board of Trustees is responsible for oversight, finances, and management of over 60 school campuses within LISD, servicing over 52,000 students. The Board of Trustees is comprised of seven trustees, who are elected to their positions, which are not tied to a geographic location, in staggered three-year terms. (Dkt. #45 at 2–3). Each trustee is elected on an at-large basis based on a plurality of the vote, meaning that all eligible voters across LISD may vote in every Board of Trustees election. (Dkt. #45 at 3).

LISD is racially diverse. Vaughan alleges that "people of color" make up 33.3% of the voting-age population and, of the student population, 29.6% are Hispanic, 14.3% are Asian, and 10.7% are African American. (Dkt. #1 ¶¶ 25, 43). Though the complaint focuses on a myriad of alleged inequities suffered by minority and economically disadvantaged students that Vaughan attributes to a lack of representation by the purportedly affluent, all-white Board of Trustees currently in place, Vaughan also alleges that the minority vote is diluted because of racially polarized voting. Vaughan contends that African American, Hispanic, and Asian voters are geographically compact and a "politically unified group," but that because a majority of the citizens of voting age in LISD are white and vote as a distinct bloc, the minority vote is diluted such that minorities cannot successfully elect their candidate of choice in an at-large electoral system. (Dkt. #1 ¶ 44). According to Vaughan, "the electoral system results in African Americans, Hispanics, and Asians having less opportunity than other LISD voters to meaningfully participate in the electoral process and to elect representatives of their choice." (Dkt. #1 ¶ 59). As a result, Vaughan believes that the at-large electoral system violates section 2 of the VRA and the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments.

Vaughan lives within LISD and is a registered voter. (Dkt #46-2, Ex. 2 ¶ 3). However, LISD notes that Vaughan is not a member of any minority group identified in the complaint. Instead, Vaughan is a white male voter. (Dkt. #40 at 4). For his part, Vaughan does not explicitly allege his race, instead making cryptic references to "friends and neighbors" who are "African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and other minorities" and who are denied "an equal opportunity to elect representatives of their choice." (Dkt. #42-2, Ex. 2 ¶ 10) (emphasis added). Although he is inexplicably coy about identifying his own race, Vaughan's filings ultimately make clear that he does not contest and, indeed, impliedly concedes that he is a white male and not a member of the African American, Hispanic, or Asian minority groups referenced in his complaint.2 LISD contends that, because Vaughan is a white voter, as a matter of law he lacks standing to raise the asserted VRA claim, and related constitutional claims, premised on injuries purportedly suffered by African American, Hispanic, or Asian minority groups as a result of LISD's at-large electoral system.

II.
A.

"Summary judgment is appropriate only when ‘the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.’ " Shepherd v. City of Shreveport , 920 F.3d 278, 282–83 (5th Cir. 2019) (quoting FED. R. CIV. P. 56(a) ). If the moving party presents a motion for summary judgment that is properly supported by evidence, "the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to show with ‘significant probative evidence’ that there exists a genuine issue of material fact." Hamilton v. Segue Software Inc. , 232 F.3d 473, 477 (5th Cir. 2000) (quoting Conkling v. Turner , 18 F.3d 1285, 1295 (5th Cir. 1994) ).

Because Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 requires that there be no "genuine issue of material fact" to succeed on a motion for summary judgment, "the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute" is insufficient to defeat a motion for summary judgment. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 247–48, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986) (first emphasis omitted). A fact is "material" when, under the relevant substantive law, its resolution might govern the outcome of the suit. Id. at 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505. "An issue is ‘genuine’ if the evidence is sufficient for a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Hamilton , 232 F.3d at 476 (citing Anderson , 477 U.S. at 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505 ). If, when considering the entire record, no rational jury could find for the nonmoving party, the movant is entitled to summary judgment. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp. , 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986) (citing First Nat'l Bank of Ariz. v. Cities Serv. Co. , 391 U.S. 253, 280, 88 S.Ct. 1575, 20 L.Ed.2d 569 (1968) ).

B.

It is a bedrock principle that the power of the federal judiciary is circumscribed by the limits set forth in Article III of the United States Constitution. See Valley Forge Christian Coll. v. Ams. United for Separation of Church and State, Inc. , 454 U.S. 464, 471, 102 S.Ct. 752, 70 L.Ed.2d 700 (1982) (quoting Liverpool S.S. Co. v. Comm'rs of Emigration , 113 U.S. 33, 39, 5 S.Ct. 352, 28 L.Ed. 899 (1885) ) ("The constitutional power of federal courts cannot be defined, and indeed has no substance, without reference to the necessity ‘to adjudge the legal rights of litigants in actual controversies.’ "). Article III legitimizes the use of judicial power "to declare the rights of individuals and to measure the authority of governments" in the resolution of "cases" and "controversies." Id. (citing Chi. & Grant Trunk Ry. Co. v. Wellman , 143 U.S. 339, 345, 12 S.Ct. 400, 36 L.Ed. 176 (1892) ).

Embedded in the "case" or "controversy" requirement is the notion that a plaintiff must have standing, which is a plaintiff's "personal stake in the outcome." Warth v. Seldin , 422 U.S. 490, 498, 95 S.Ct. 2197, 45 L.Ed.2d 343 (1975) (quoting Baker v. Carr , 369 U.S. 186, 204, 82 S.Ct. 691, 7 L.Ed.2d 663 (1962) ) (internal quotation marks omitted). The requirements of standing are well known: "a plaintiff must show (1) an ‘injury in fact,’ (2) a sufficient ‘causal connection between the injury and the conduct complained of,’ and (3) a ‘likel[ihood] that the injury ‘will be redressed by a favorable decision.’ " Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus , 573 U.S. 149, 157–58, 134 S.Ct. 2334, 189 L.Ed.2d 246 (2014) (quoting Lujan v. Defs. of Wildlife , 504 U.S. 555, 560–61, 112 S.Ct. 2130, 119 L.Ed.2d 351 (1992) ) (alterations in original).

Injury in fact, the "[f]irst and foremost" of the standing requirements, Steel Co. v. Citizens for a Better Env't , 523 U.S. 83, 103, 118 S.Ct. 1003, 140 L.Ed.2d 210 (1998), demands that a plaintiff demonstrate " ‘an invasion of a legally protected interest’ that is ‘concrete and particularized’ and ‘actual or imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical’ " to confer jurisdiction, Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, ––– U.S. ––––, 136 S.Ct. 1540, 1548, 194 L.Ed.2d 635 (2016) (quoting Lujan , 504 U.S. at 560...

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