Wright v. Rockefeller

Decision Date26 November 1962
Citation211 F. Supp. 460
PartiesYvette M. WRIGHT, Horacio L. Quinones, Darwin Bolden, Benny Cartagena, Ramon Diaz, Joseph R. Erazo, Blorneva Selby, Walsh McDermott, Seth Dubin, all individually and on behalf of all other persons similarly situated, Plaintiffs, v. Nelson A. ROCKEFELLER, Governor of the State of New York, Louis J. Lefkowitz, Attorney General of the State of New York, Caroline K. Simon, Secretary of State of the State of New York, and Denis J. Mahon, James M. Power, John R. Crews and Thomas Mallee, Commissioners of Elections constituting the Board of Elections of the City of New York, Defendants, and Adam Clayton Powell, J. Raymond Jones, Lloyd E. Dickens, Hulan E. Jack, Mark Southall and Antonion Mendez, Defendant-Intervenors.
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of New York

Justin N. Feldman, Jerome T. Orans, Leo M. Drachsler, Edward J. Bloustein, Bruce McM. Wright, New York City (James M. Edwards, Elsie Quinlan, George M. Cohen, New York City, on the brief), for plaintiffs.

Louis J. Lefkowitz, Atty. Gen. of New York, Albany, N. Y., Irving Galt, Asst. Sol. Gen., and Sheldon Raab, Deputy Asst. Atty. Gen., of counsel, for defendants, Nelson A. Rockefeller, Louis J. Lefkowitz, and Caroline K. Simon.

Leo A. Larkin, Corp. Counsel of the City of New York, Benjamin Offner, Asst. Corp. Counsel, of counsel, for defendants, Denis J. Mahon, James M. Power, John R. Crews and Thomas Mallee, Commissioners of the Board of Elections of the City of New York.

Jawn A. Sandifer, William C. Chance, Jr., Robert W. Seavey, Morris Sterenbuch, New York City, for defendant-intervenors.

Before MOORE, Circuit Judge, and MURPHY and FEINBERG, District Judges.

MOORE, Circuit Judge.

Plaintiffs bring this action allegedly "to redress the deprivation, under color of the law of the State of New York, of rights, privileges and immunities secured to the plaintiffs under the Constitution and laws of the United States and to declare unconstitutional that portion of the State statute in question which deprives the plaintiffs of their rights, privileges and immunities". More specifically, they claim that the action arises under the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments of the Constitution of the United States, the Civil Rights Act (42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1988 and under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1343, 2201, 2202 and 2281). The relief sought is that a three-judge constitutional court hear and determine the case; that such portion of Chapter 980 of the 1961 Laws of New York, State Law, §§ 110-112, as describes the boundaries of the 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th Congressional Districts be declared unconstitutional; that a preliminary injunction issue against the primary election on September 6, 19621 and the general election on November 6, 1962 on the basis of such boundaries; that a permanent injunction issue; that unless a redistricting of such four districts be made, there be an election at large in New York County for the four Congressional seats in said County; and that absent such legislative action, the court appoint a special master to redefine the boundaries of the four districts in question.

The plaintiffs allege that they reside and are registered voters in these respective districts and that each brings the action on his own behalf and all other residents of the respective districts. They ask, because of their claim that they "fairly and adequately represent" these other registered voters, that this be considered a "class suit".

The portion of the statute (Chap. 980) under attack establishes, according to plaintiffs, "irrational, discriminatory and unequal Congressional Districts in the County of New York and segregates eligible voters by race and place of origin". Plaintiffs charge that the 17th Congressional District was "contrived" to exclude "non-white citizens and citizens of Puerto Rican origin" and that the 18th, 19th and 20th districts "have been drawn so as to include the overwhelming number of non-white citizens and citizens of Puerto Rican origin in the County of New York". They also assert that the 17th is "over-represented" and the 18th, 19th and 20th are "under-represented".

This situation, plaintiffs say, has existed for many years, that there have been repeated and energetic efforts to seek legislative correction of the abridgement of plaintiffs' constitutional rights but that they have been of no avail "because of the existing unconstitutional apportionment of the Legislature of the State of New York"; that the Legislature in successive statutes has redrawn the district boundaries in accordance with shifts in non-white and Puerto Rican populations and that the 17th has a population 12% less than the 18th, 15.4% less than the 19th and 14% less than the 20th. These allegations have been set forth at some length because of the necessity of ascertaining whether they have been established by the proof.

At the opening of the trial six individuals, Adam Clayton Powell, J. Raymond Jones, Lloyd E. Dickens, Hulan E. Jack, Mark Southall and Antonio Mendez, by counsel moved to intervene. They were represented to be duly enrolled members of the Democratic Party and district leaders of the area comprising the 11th, 12th, 13th and 14th Assembly Districts. Adam Clayton Powell, a Negro, is now serving as Congressman from the (pre-1961) 18th Congressional District. Intervention was granted. The intervenors thereupon served their answer as intervening defendants alleging six defenses which, amongst other matters, denied that plaintiffs represented the class to which the intervenors belong and that the redistricting of the four Congressional Districts in question deprived plaintiffs of their constitutional rights. As affirmative defenses they alleged, in substance, that the test for Congressional representation is based on population rather than race, that the Republican-controlled Legislature drew the new district boundaries "along partisan political lines rather than racial lines" to "cut out as many democrats as they possibly could", that judgment as sought by plaintiffs would place in jeopardy the constitutional rights of Negroes and Puerto Ricans to representation in Congress, that a County-wide election at large would "deprive Negroes and Puerto Ricans and other minorities of fair representation and equal protection under the law", that this is not a proper class action, that "the real party in interest in this law suit is the Democratic County Committee of the County of New York", that said Committee of which intervenors are members never authorized or approved plaintiffs' action, and that plaintiffs are estopped from bringing this action because of their failure to commence it until some time after June 21, 1962 the initial date for nominating petitions.

On the trial, plaintiffs presented certain statistical material gathered from the 1960 census figures and various maps of Manhattan Island (New York County). At the request of the court, counsel for the Attorney-General submitted maps showing the many Congressional district changes since 1911. No proof was offered by any party that the specific boundaries created by Chapter 980 were drawn on racial lines or that the Legislature was motivated by considerations of race, creed or country of origin in creating the districts. Plaintiffs rely entirely upon their analyses and version of certain statistics and would impute to the Legislature the inferences they draw therefrom.

After the Eighteenth Decennial Census (1960) had been taken, the President according to law (2 U.S.C. § 2a) transmitted to the Congress a statement under date of January 10, 1961 showing the number of persons in each State and "the number of Representatives to which each State would be entitled under an apportionment of the existing number of Representatives by the method of equal proportions. The statement disclosed a total population of 179,323,175 for the United States and 16,782,304 for New York State. Apportioning the 435 Congressional Representatives amongst the States, New York became entitled to 41 instead of the 43 previously allotted under the 1950 census.

As a result of this required change, the Joint Legislative Committee on Reapportionment submitted to the Second Extraordinary Session of the New York Legislature on November 9, 1961 its interim report (see McKinney's Session Laws of New York, 1962, at 63, 64) wherein it stated the need for legislative action, namely, that because of the reduction in Congressional seats all the Representatives of the State would have to be elected at large "unless new districts not exceeding in number the number of Representatives apportioned to the state shall be created". The Committee briefly reviewed the history of the Congressional district system as follows:

In the early days of the Republic, some of the states elected by districts and some at large. The desire for local representation, however, gradually led to the adoption of the district method by the majority of the states. By 1842, of the states entitled to more than one Representative, 22 were electing their Representatives by districts, and only 6 were electing at large.
As the practice of electing by districts became firmly established, Congress, in connection with the succeeding apportionments of Representatives among the states, enacted statutes setting standards for the election of Representatives within the several states. In connection with each decennial census from 1840 to 1910, with the exception of the census of 1850, Congress enacted a law of this character. The last of these laws was the Act of August 8, 1911 (2 U.S.C.A. § 2) (37 Stat. L. 13), which provided that districts should consist of contiguous and compact territory and contain as nearly as practicable an equal number of inhabitants. There was no apportionment Act after the census of 1920. The permanent act of June 18, 1929 (46 Stat.L. 13), as originally enacted and as amended by the Act of April 25, 1940 (2 U.S.C.A. § 2a) (54

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21 cases
  • Ince v. Rockefeller
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of New York
    • September 30, 1968
    ...of one race within a given district would, in fact, raise grave constitutional questions. Wright v. Rockefeller, 211 F.Supp. 460, 468-469 (S.D.N.Y.1962) (concurring opinion by Feinberg, J.) aff'd. 376 U.S. 52, 84 S.Ct. 603, 11 L.Ed.2d 512 ABSTENTION Even if it were to be assumed that enough......
  • Bush v. Martin
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of Texas
    • March 2, 1964
    ...submitted to the Second Extraordinary Session of the New York Legislature on November 1961 is taken from Wright v. Rockefeller, S.D. N.Y., 1962, 211 F.Supp. 460, 462-464. Under the statement transmitted to Congress by the President (pursuant to 2 U.S.C.A. § 2a) following the 1960 census, Ne......
  • Shaw v. Reno
    • United States
    • U.S. Supreme Court
    • June 28, 1993
    ...86.3% of the population in the Eighteenth District was classified as nonwhite or Puerto Rican. See Wright v. Rockefeller, 211 F.Supp. 460, 472 (SDNY 1962) (Murphy, J., dissenting); 376 U.S., at 54, 84 S.Ct., at 604. The plaintiffs alleged that the plan was drawn with the intent to segregate......
  • United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburgh, Inc. v. Wilson
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Second Circuit
    • January 6, 1975
    ...376 U.S. at 59, 66--67, 84 S.Ct. 603. See also Judge Feinberg's concurrence in the three-judge district court in Wright v. Rockefeller, 211 F.Supp. 460, 468 (S.D.N.Y.1962), affirmed by the Supreme Court, supra. The loss of a vote need not be shown, it is argued; the constitutional vice is c......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • Where to draw the line? Judicial review of political gerrymanders.
    • United States
    • University of Pennsylvania Law Review Vol. 153 No. 1, November 2004
    • November 1, 2004
    ...141,854 to 113,876 edge."). (27) Fortson v. Dorsey, 379 U.S. 433, 439 (1965). (28) 376 U.S. 52 (1964). (29) Wright v. Rockefeller, 211 F. Supp. 460, 464, 466 (S.D.N.Y. 1962) (three-judge (30) 403 U.S. 124 (1971). (31) See id. at 154-55 ("The mere fact that one interest group or another ... ......

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