Williams v. City of Dallas

Decision Date28 March 1990
Docket NumberNo. CA 3-88-1152-R.,CA 3-88-1152-R.
Citation734 F. Supp. 1317
PartiesRoy WILLIAMS and Marvin Crenshaw, Plaintiffs, and The Ledbetter Neighborhood Association, Plaintiff-Intervenor, v. The CITY OF DALLAS, Defendant.
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of Texas

Roy Williams, Thelma E. Sanders, Jonathan W. Vickery and Elizabeth K. Julian, Legal Services of North Texas, and Michael M. Daniel, Dallas, Tex., for plaintiffs.

Analeslie Muncy, Paul Pearce, Jr., Kenneth C. Dippel, Carroll Graham, John Schumann, Sam A. Lindsay and Kathryn Bendor-Samuel, City Attys., Dallas, Tex., Francis X. Wright, Roger D. Redden, Kurt J. Fischer, Piper & Marbury, Baltimore, Md., and Gerrit M. Pronske, Hale, Spencer, Stanley, Pronske & Trust, Dallas, Tex., for defendant.

Rolando L. Rios, San Antonio, Tex., and William L. Garrett, Garrett, Thompson & Chang, Dallas, Tex., for plaintiff-intervenor.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

BUCHMEYER, District Judge.

This is a voting rights case.

It concerns the "8-3 system" for the election of members of the Dallas City Council—i.e., 8 single-member districts and 3 "at-large" places. Under this system, no African-American has ever been elected to one of the at-large seats; only one Mexican-American has been elected at-large under the 8-3 system but, as discussed below, this was due to some very unusual circumstances that will not be repeated. Accordingly, this opinion holds:

(i) that the 8-3 system violates § 2 of the Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1973, because it dilutes the votes of politically cohesive African-Americans and of politically cohesive Mexican-Americans in Dallas; and (ii) that a special Council election must be held to remedy the adverse effects of the 8-3 system—the denial of equal access to the City's political process— which blacks and Hispanics have suffered under this system for almost 15 years.

The Fifth Circuit has repeatedly emphasized that there is a "special need for detailed findings of fact in vote dilution cases"1 in which the district court performs a "searching and practical evaluation of `past and present reality' based on a functional view of the political process."2

"Because the resolution of a voting dilution claim requires close analysis of unusually complex factual patterns, and because the decision of such a case has the potential for serious interference with state functions, we have strictly adhered to the rule 52(a) requirements in voting dilution cases and have required district courts to explain with particularity their reasoning and the subsidiary factual conclusions underlying their reasoning ... Perhaps in no other area of the law is as much specificity in reasoning and fact finding required, as shown by our frequent remands of voting dilution cases to district courts." (872 F.2d at 1203) (emphasis added).

Accordingly, the Findings of Fact in this opinion are exhaustive.3 Because of their length, this Memorandum Opinion—for convenience4—will begin with a brief discussion of the applicable law (pp. 1319-1320), followed by a summary of the opinion (pp. 1320-1330) and its reasons for holding that:

(i) under the 8-3 system, African-Americans and Hispanics are denied access to the 3 at-large seats because they cannot raise—from their own communities—the enormous amount of money (at least $150-200,000) that is required for an effective at-large, city-wide campaign in Dallas;
(ii) under the 8-3 system, blacks have been unfairly prohibited from electing more than two single-district Council Members by the "packing" of African-Americans into two districts with 75-87% concentration and 85-91% total minority population (Districts 6 and 8)—and by splitting the remaining African-American population in Dallas between Districts 1 and 7, to prevent the creation of a third black district; and
(iii) these discriminatory effects of the 8-3 system, which clearly violate § 2 of the Voting Rights Act, must be remedied by a special City Council election to be held as soon as possible.

The opinion summary will be followed, of course, by the specific, detailed Findings of Fact required in voting dilution cases. Specifically, these comprehensive findings will cover the following topics:

                A.  General:                                 Findings 1-8
                B.  History of the 8-3 System
                    (1856-1980):                             Findings 9-131
                C.  The Continuing Reapportionment
                    Controversy (1980-1989):                 Findings 132-225
                D.  History of the 10-4-1 Plan
                    (1989-1990):                             Findings 226-276
                E.  Specific Findings on Critical
                    Issues:                                  Findings 277-311
                    (1) safe districts & packing:            Findings 278-282
                    (2) at-large seats:                      Findings 283-293
                    (3) the supposed "city-wide"
                        view:                                Findings 294-299
                    (4) the "two people to call" argument:   Findings 300-304
                    (5) the mayor's at-large place:          Findings 305-311
                F.  The Gingles Threshold:          Findings 312-378
                    (1) Blacks—size & compactness:     Findings 313-314
                    (2) Blacks—politically cohesive:   Findings 315-335
                    (3) Blacks—white bloc voting:      Findings 336-357
                    (1) Hispanics—sized compactness:   Findings 357-364
                    (2) Hispanics—politically
                        cohesive:                            Findings 365-378
                    (3) Hispanics—white bloc voting:   Findings 365-378
                G.  The Zimmer Factors:             Findings 379-429
                H.  The Totality of the Circumstances
                    Test:                                    Findings 430-441
                I.  Observations About the 10-4-1
                    Plan:                                    Findings 442-449
                J.  The Delay & The Remedy:                  Findings 450-461
                

The Findings of Fact will, of course, be followed by the Conclusions of Law (1-18) (pp. 1413-1415), and by the Conclusion of this opinion (pp. 1415-1416).

I. THE APPLICABLE LAW

The basic question in this § 2 vote dilution case is whether, as a result of the challenged 8-3 system for Dallas City Council elections, the African-American plaintiffs and the Mexican-American intervenors "do not have an equal opportunity to participate in the political processes and to elect candidates of their choice." Thornburg v. Gingles, 478 U.S. 30, 44, 106 S.Ct. 2752, 2762, 92 L.Ed.2d 25 (1986) (emphasis added).

the Act

Specifically, § 2 of the Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1973, provides:

"(a) No voting qualification or prerequisite to voting or standard, practice, or procedure shall be imposed or applied by any State or political subdivision in a manner which results in a denial or abridgement of the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color ...
"(b) A violation of subsection (a) of this section is established if, based on the totality of circumstances, it is shown that the political processes leading to nomination or election in the State or political subdivision are not equally open to participation by members of a class of citizens ... in that its members have less opportunity than other members of the electorate to participate in the political process and to elect representatives of their choice. The extent to which members of a protected class have been elected to office in the State or political subdivision is one circumstance which may be considered: Provided, That nothing in this section establishes a right to have members of a protected class elected in numbers equal to their proportion in the population."5

the Gingles threshold

Under Thornburg v. Gingles, 478 U.S. 30, 106 S.Ct. 2752, Dallas' use of the 8-3 system—with the 3 at-large seats6—would not impede "the ability of minority voters to elect representatives of their choice" unless there is a white bloc voting majority that would "usually be able to defeat candidates supported by a politically cohesive, geographically insular minority group." 478 U.S. at 48-49, 106 S.Ct. at 2765. Therefore, the black plaintiffs and the Hispanic intervenor in this case must first meet the Gingles three-part threshold:

"Under Gingles, plaintiffs must establish first that the group is sufficiently large and geographically compact to constitute a majority in a single-member district; second, that it is politically cohesive and third, that the white majority votes sufficiently as a bloc to enable it usually to defeat the minority's preferred candidate. 478 U.S. at 50-51, 106 S.Ct. at 2766-67; Campos v. City of Baytown, 840 F.2d 1240 at 1243. The second and third elements are usually established by statistical evidence of racially polarized voting by the voters in the relevant political unit." Westwego, 872 F.2d at 1205-06.

the Zimmer factors

If this threshold is met, then this Court must determine if the 8-3 system violates § 2 of the Voting Rights Act by conducting a "searching practical evaluation" of the list of factors first set forth in Zimmer v. McKeithen, 485 F.2d 1297 (5th Cir.1973) (en banc), and later in the Senate Report of the 1982 amendments to the Act:

"1. the extent of any history of official discrimination in the state or political subdivision that touched the right of the members of the minority group to register, to vote, or otherwise to participate in the democratic process;
"2. the extent to which voting in the elections of the state or political subdivision is racially polarized;
"3. the extent to which the state or political subdivision has used unusually large election districts, majority vote requirements, anti-single shot provisions, or other voting practices or procedures that may enhance the opportunity for discrimination against the minority group;
"4. if there is a candidate slating process, whether the members of the minority group have been denied access to that process;
"5. the extent to which members of the minority group in the state or political subdivision bear the effects of discrimination in such areas as education, employment and health, which hinder their ability to participate effectively in
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