Baker v. Carr Case Brief

Facts of the case

Charles W. Baker and other Tennessee citizens alleged that a 1901 law designed to apportion the seats for the state’s General Assembly was virtually ignored. Baker’s suit detailed how Tennessee’s reapportionment efforts ignored significant economic growth and population shifts within the state.

Why is the case important?

Appellants brought suit, challenging malapportionment of state legislatures under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Question

Is it possible to bring a malapportionment claim without raising a nonjusticiable political issue?

ANSWER

Yes. Reversed and remanded.
In the past, apportionment challengers have generally based their challenge on the Guaranty Clause of Art. IV, Section: 4 of the Constitution. These claims are nonjusticiable as they address issues solely directed to the political branches of the government by the Constitution. This is a separation of powers issue.
In Baker v. Carr, the claim is that the Appellants are being denied equal protection of the laws by being underrepresented in the state legislature. The Supreme Court rules that the equal protection challenge in this case is separable from the political questions.

CONCLUSION

The court reversed and remanded, holding that the complaint’s allegations of a denial of equal protection presented a justiciable constitutional cause of action upon which plaintiffs were entitled to a trial and a decision. The right that plaintiffs asserted was within the reach of judicial protection under U.S. Const. amend. XIV. The court further found that if discrimination were sufficiently shown, the right to relief under the Equal Protection Clause would not be diminished by the fact that the discrimination related to political rights.

  • Advocates: Charles S. Rhyne for the appellants at argument and reargument Z. T. Osborn, Jr. reargued the cause for the appellants Archibald Cox Solicitor General, Department of Justice, as amicus curiae, by special leave of Court James M. Glasgow for the appellees Jack Wilson reargued for the appellees
  • Appellant: Charles W. Baker et al.
  • Appellee: Joe C. Carr et al.
  • DECIDED BY:Warren Court
  • Location: Tennessee State Capitol
Citation: 369 US 186 (1962)
Argued: Apr 19 – 20, 1961
ReArgued: Oct 9, 1961
Decided: Mar 26, 1962
Baker v. Carr Case Brief