Baker v. Carr

PETITIONER: Charles W. Baker et al.
RESPONDENT: Joe C. Carr et al.
LOCATION: Tennessee State Capitol

DOCKET NO.: 6
DECIDED BY:
LOWER COURT: Federal district court

CITATION: 369 US 186 (1962)
ARGUED: Apr 19, 1961 / Apr 20, 1961
REARGUED: Oct 09, 1961
DECIDED: Mar 26, 1962

ADVOCATES:
Archibald Cox - Solicitor General, Department of Justice, as amicus curiae, by special leave of Court
Charles S. Rhyne - for the appellants at argument and reargument
James M. Glasgow - for the appellees
Jack Wilson - reargued for the appellees
Z. T. Osborn, Jr. - reargued the cause for the appellants

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.

Question

Did the Supreme Court have jurisdiction over questions of legislative apportionment?

Media for Baker v. Carr

Audio Transcription for Oral Reargument - October 09, 1961 (Part 2) in Baker v. Carr
Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 19, 1961 in Baker v. Carr
Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 20, 1961 in Baker v. Carr

Audio Transcription for Oral Reargument - October 09, 1961 (Part 1) in Baker v. Carr

Earl Warren:

Number 6, Charles W. Baker, et al., Appellants, versus Joe C. Carr, et al.

Mr. Rhyne.

Charles S. Rhyne:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

This is a voting rights case.

It's brought here on appeal by 11 Tennessee voters who seek federal court protection to end flagrant discrimination against their right to vote.

These 11 Tennessee voters lived in five of the largest cities of Tennessee.

They are the intended and actual victims of a statutory scheme which devalues reduces their right to vote to about 120th of the value of the vote given to certain rural residents.

Since the right to vote is the greatest civil right, the most fundamental civil right under our system of Government, this system under the statute of Tennessee is as shocking as it is purposeful and successful.

These appellants bring their case here under the Fourteenth Amendment in the Civil Rights Act.

Now the District Court in passing on their complaint said that it entirely agreed that their rights were violated and that the evil was a serious one which should be corrected without delay but that court found that it either did not have the power or should not exercise it under the precedents to which it refer.

Potter Stewart:

Did the court indicate which rights were violated?

Did it indicate that they were federal constitutional rights or only the right --

Charles S. Rhyne:

It did --

Potter Stewart:

-- under the Tennessee statute?

Charles S. Rhyne:

It did Mr. Justice Stewart.

If you will look at the opinion of the court, you will find that it indicated both.

I realized that our adversaries have said that the court only had reference to the violation of the state constitution but if you will look at page 219, the court says it --

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

Page what?

Charles S. Rhyne:

Page 219 of the record, Mr. Justice Brennan, the third line.

The court said it is strenuously argued by the plaintiff that the case alleged in the complaint is one involving a clear violation of their individual rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment.

And then when the court later on refers to both the state constitution and rights, Mr. Justice Stewart, I think that it's a fair reading of the opinion of the court that it had reference to both rights under the Fourteenth Amendment and rights under the Constitution of Tennessee.

Earl Warren:

Where is that language Mr. Rhyne?

Charles S. Rhyne:

On page 219.

Earl Warren:

Both?

Is it following in the same sentence, you begin that what the court's observation like what --

Charles S. Rhyne:

Yes, Mr. Chief Justice, I think that I can -- I'll read it all in order that there'll be no mistake about it.

The part that I read which referred to violation of their individual rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment is about one, two, three, four, five lines there at the top.

Earl Warren:

I see that.

Charles S. Rhyne:

And it said -- and for this reason that the court should in some way overcome its reluctance to intervene in matters of a local political nature and formulate a remedy which would adequately protect their rights.

They refer to their rights under the Fourteenth Amendment.