Avery v. Midland County

PETITIONER: Avery
RESPONDENT: Midland County
LOCATION: Telephone Booth

DOCKET NO.: 39
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1967-1969)
LOWER COURT: Supreme Court of Texas

CITATION: 390 US 474 (1968)
ARGUED: Nov 14, 1967
DECIDED: Apr 01, 1968

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Avery v. Midland County

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 14, 1967 in Avery v. Midland County

Earl Warren:

Number 39, Hank Avery, Petitioner, versus Midland County, Texas et al.

Mr. Olson

Lyndon L. Olson:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

This action is before the Court by writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court of Texas.

The question before the Court is whether the principle of one man, one vote as established in Reynolds versus Sims applies to the governing body of Midland County, Texas.

We respectfully submit that the function of the County Government in Texas and the facts in this case suggest that the question be answered in the affirmative.

Midland County, Texas is located in West Central Texas.

It's approximately square in size, contains 900 acres, has 70,000 people --

Earl Warren:

900 acres?

Lyndon L. Olson:

900 square miles, I'm sorry, Your Honor, 900 square miles.

And it's governed by a governing body that's established by Article V, Section 18 of the Constitution of Texas.

This provision of the Constitution provides that the governing body shall consist of a county commissioners court composed of a county judge and four county commissioners, each county commissioner to be elected from a commissioners precinct and to be elected for a term of four years.

The county commissioner's precincts are boundaries to the county commissioners precinct or established by the Commissioners Court.

The original county commissioners precincts were established in 1885 and in the late 1800s and the early 1900s, there we're two or three minor changes made and no further changes were made in the boundaries of the county commissioners court until 1963.

Now in 1952, Mr. Hank Avery, the petitioner here and the plaintiff below, appeared before the county commissioners court of Midland County and pointed out to the Court at this time the disparity of population between the commissioner's precincts and the county.

Mr. Avery pointed out that commissioner's precinct won of which he was a resident, contained over 95% of the population of Midland County and elected only one member to the Commissioners Court.

That commissioners precincts numbers two, three, and four, contained less than 5% of the population of the county, and elected three members of the commissioners court.

And therefore, he did not have -- the citizen did not have an equal voice in the Government, governing body of Midland County, and asked that county be redistributed in accordance with the population.

His request was denied.

In 1963, Mr. Avery filed a lawsuit in Midland County, Texas against the Commissioners Court to require the entry to District Midland County in accordance with substantial numerical quantity.

After this lawsuit was filed, the Commissioners Court held what they designate as public hearings in an attempt to resolve this issue and Mr. Avery appeared at these public hearings and presented a plan to the Commissioners Court whereby the county could be divided so that it would be equal in population.

Substantially equal insofar as miles of county roads, areas, taxable values, and so forth.

The proposition of Mr. Avery was rejected.

The Commissioners Court made only very slight changes in the commissioners precincts.

No substantial changes in an area or in population.

These changes were made in August 1963 effective January 1, 1964.

We filed an amended pleading after this action of the commissioners court and the case was tried in the spring of 1964.

Now, in the amended pleading, the amended pleading showed and proof substantiated in this case that Mr. Avery was a resident citizen of Precinct Number 1 of Midland County, a qualified voter and taxpayer.

It further showed that the county, Midland County, were divided into four commissioners precincts numbered one, two, three, and four, and at each elected one member to the Commissioners Court.

The pleadings and the proof further showed that over 95% of the population of Midland County elected one member of the Commissioners Court.