Wallace v. House

Decision Date06 June 1974
Docket NumberCiv. A. No. 17971.
Citation377 F. Supp. 1192
PartiesGeorge WALLACE, Sr., et al., v. J. P. HOUSE, Individually and as Registrar of Voters of Concordia Parish, Louisiana, et al.
CourtU.S. District Court — Western District of Louisiana



Paul Henry Kidd, Kidd, Katz & Halpin, Monroe, La., Stanley A. Halpin, Jr., New Orleans, La., for plaintiffs.

W. C. Falkenheiner, Dist. Atty., Seventh Judicial Dist., Vidalia, La., Robert C. Downing, Asst. Atty. Gen. of La., Monroe, La., A. Mills McCawley, Sp. Counsel to the Atty. Gen. of La., Shreveport, La., for defendant J. P. House.

Norman M. Magee, Ferriday, La., for all other defendants.

DAWKINS, Senior District Judge.


1. This class action is brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiffs seek a declaratory judgment, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2201, a preliminary injunction, a permanent injunction, and other appropriate relief to enjoin the deprivation, under color of law, by the State of Louisiana (and in particular the Town of Ferriday) of the rights, privileges, and immunities of the plaintiffs and the class they represent, arising under the Constitution of the United States and, more particularly, the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. Jurisdiction is conferred in this Court by 28 U.S.C. § 1343(3) and (4).

2. Plaintiffs Henry A. Montgomery, Clarence L. Hymon, L. J. Scott, Leon Smith are black citizens of the United States and residents and registered voters in the Town of Ferriday, Concordia Parish, Louisiana. All were candidates for the Board of Aldermen for the Town of Ferriday March 25, 1972. All were unsuccessful. Louis Hill, Jr., another plaintiff, has died since this suit was filed.

3. Plaintiffs George Wallace, Sr., Jesse L. Bloodshaw, and Louis R. Jones are black citizens of the United States, and residents and registered voters in the Town of Ferriday. They were unsuccessful candidates for the Democratic Executive Committee for the Town at the Election held March 25, 1972.

4. The plaintiffs sue individually and as representatives of the class of black voters of the Town, and as potential candidates for the Board of Aldermen.

5. The Town of Ferriday is a municipal corporation and is recognized by the State of Louisiana pursuant to L.S.A.-R.S. 33:51 et seq. (Lawrason Act.)

6. Defendant J. P. House is a white citizen of Ferriday. He is the Registrar of Voters of Concordia Parish and was sued both in his capacity as Registrar and individually.

7. Defendant L. W. Davis is Mayor of Ferriday. He has responsibility for the control, care, and management of the Town as provided by L.S.A.-R.S. 33:321 et seq. He is sued in his individual and official capacities.

8. Defendants Raymond Galloway, Glenn E. Ratcliff, Raymond Cooper, George M. Scruggs, and Guy R. Serio are the present members of the Board of Aldermen for the Town. As such they constitute the legislative governing body of the Town, pursuant to L.S.A.-R.S. 33:321 et seq. They also have the duty and responsibility of determining the districting arrangement for the election of Aldermen. They are sued in their individual and official capacities.

9. Defendants John F. Anders, Purser Raborn, and A. E. Torres are the present members of the Democratic Executive Committee for the Town. They are sued individually and in their capacities as Democratic Executive Committeemen.

10. The five members of the Ferriday Board of Aldermen are currently elected on an at-large basis, with no residency requirements, by the electors living within the Town limits. The Town being a Lawrason Act city, as indicated, the Board of Aldermen performs purely legislative functions. All of the present Aldermen are white, and only one black ever has been elected to serve on the Board, and no black ever has been elected to any other office in the Town.

11. According to the 1970 census, the total population of the Town is 5,239. Of this total, 2,211 are white, and 3,028 are black. Thus, although a significant proportion of the population is black, there is no black member now serving on the Board of Aldermen, and only one black ever has served on the Board.

12. The at-large scheme of electing Aldermen in the Town effectively deprives plaintiffs and their class of the right to vote, on account of race, in that it invidiously cancels out the voting strength of blacks within the Town.

13. Practically all of the black population of the Town lives in two geographically discernable areas: (1) the area east of the railroad tracks, and (2) the area in the southwest portion of the town. These areas are known to be the black residential areas of the Town.

14. There has been a continuing history of State and local official racial discrimination in Ferriday and the Parish of Concordia, which, until fairly recent times, has extended to deprivation of the rights of blacks to register and vote and to participate in the democratic process.

15. Ferriday is a one-party town, with nominations by the Democratic Party being tantamount to election.

16. Black voters of Ferriday vote consistently for the Democratic Party nominee for Aldermen and other political offices. The Democratic nominees are consistently elected, yet they fail to respond properly to the needs of the black community.

17. Other voting practices and procedures of the State of Louisiana and the Town of Ferriday compound and multiply the racially discriminatory effect of the at-large scheme of elections for Aldermen in the Town.

18. Specifically, by L.S.A.-R.S. 18:358, Louisiana law provides for a majority rather than a plurality requirement in primary elections. Under this provision, any candidate who receives a mere plurality must stand for election in a second primary. The white voter registration and voting in the at-large scheme thus effectively prohibits any black candidate from gaining election.

19. Also by L.S.A.-R.S. 18:351, Louisiana law provides for "anti-single shot" or "full slate" voting, which in at-large elections forces the voter to cast ballots for candidates whom he does not support as well as for candidates he supports. The law prevents the racial voting minority in at-large elections from concentrating their support for a single minority candidate.

20. The at-large election scheme currently employed by the Town Board of Aldermen, particularly in combination with the above described practices, effectively excludes the black community from participation in the political process of electing Aldermen in a reliable and meaningful manner.

21. The above described black residential areas in the Town have well over a majority of the voting strength within those areas, but blacks in those areas are generally unable to elect a representative to the Board of Aldermen, and will continue to be unable to do so as a result of the at-large voting scheme.

22. Accordingly, the at-large scheme of election ensures that the white voters will continue to elect all members to the Board of Aldermen, while plaintiffs and their class will continue to have neither the opportunity nor ability to be elected, all in violation of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and in deprivation of their rights thereunder.

23. The present at-large election scheme of the Town operates to minimize or cancel out the black voting strength in the Town, which deprives plaintiffs of their rights under the Fourteenth, and particularly the Fifteenth, Amendments, in that, when taken in combination with other voting laws of Louisiana, deprives plaintiffs and their class of the opportunity to elect blacks to the Ferriday Board of Aldermen, even though blacks comprise a significant proportion of the total population of the Town. This further deprives plaintiffs and their class, as potential black candidates, of the opportunity meaningfully to run for a position on the Board of Aldermen because of the design and effect of the at-large plan, thus relegating black electors to permanent minority status with no voice or influence upon defendants, all of which deprives plaintiffs of their rights under the Fourteenth and particularly the Fifteenth Amendments.

24. It is quite feasible to devise a single-member district plan for election of Aldermen in the Town of Ferriday, under which the rights of plaintiffs would not be violated.

25. The at-large election scheme described in the above paragraphs is maintained by the individual defendants under the color of law of the State of Louisiana, and of the Town of Ferriday, and under color of defendants' respective offices as officers and agents of the State.

26. On only one occasion, a black, Henry Montgomery, was elected to the Board of Aldermen, for a single four-year term. The evidence, however, indicates that his election on this occasion was due to a mere "stroke of luck" in that there were originally seven white candidates and Montgomery vying for five seats on the Board. Shortly before the election, one of the strongest white candidates withdrew because of a ruling that, as the Town's Fire Chief, he could not hold a second public office. His name remained on the ballot, however; and, because white voters divided their votes between this unqualified white candidate and the seventh white candidate, Montgomery, by obtaining a large percentage of the black vote within the Town, was able to place within the first five, and thus was elected.

27. That a single black candidate has been successful in an at-large race, by no means demonstrates that the particular at-large system does not operate to minimize or cancel out minority voting strength. Zimmer v. McKeithen, 485 F.2d 1297 (5th Cir., en banc, 1973), and Beer et al. v. United States of America et al. and Johnny Jackson, Jr. et al., 374 F.Supp. 363, at 397-398 (U.S.D.C., D.C., 1974).

28. Witnesses for plaintiffs credibly stressed the long history of racial segregation in...

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