Chapman v. Meier

LOCATION:US Servicemen’s Fund

DOCKET NO.: 73-1406
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1972-1975)

CITATION: 420 US 1 (1975)
ARGUED: Nov 13, 1974
DECIDED: Jan 27, 1975

John D. Kelly
Paul M. Sand

Facts of the case


Media for Chapman v. Meier

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – November 13, 1974 in Chapman v. Meier

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – January 27, 1975 in Chapman v. Meier

Warren E. Burger:

The judgment and opinion of the Court in No. 73-1406, Chapman against Meier will be announced by Mr. Justice Blackmun.

Harry A. Blackmun:

This case concerns the constitutionality of a reapportionment of the North Dakota legislature.

The somewhat unusual features of the reapportionment was ordered by a federal court and is not one affected by the legislature itself.

For a decade now, North Dakota has struggled with reapportionment.

There has been constant litigation in that state challenging various plans and statutes and provisions of the state’s constitution.

In 1965, a three-judge federal court approved the reapportionment plan that for the first time included five multimember senatorial districts.

The present action was instituted after the 1970 census.

The appellants alleged that substantial population shifts had occurred and that the 1965 plan no longer met the requirements of the Equal Protection Clause.

A three-judge court held that the 1965 plan failed now to meet constitutional standards and by a divided vote it approved a new plan that called for a continuing multimember senatorial districts and that contained a population variance of approximately 20%.

In an opinion filed today, we hold that when a Federal District Court orders state legislative reapportionment, it should refrain in the absence of persuasive contrary justifications from imposing multimember districts upon a state.

We also hold that a population variance of such magnitude as 20% is impermissible in a Court ordered plan in the absence of significant state policies or other acceptable considerations that require the plan’s adoption.

The burden is on the Court to elucidate the reasons — necessitate any departure from the goal of population equality and to articulate the relationship between the variance and the state policy furthered. We conclude that the allowance of the variance here was not appropriately justified.

The judgment of the three-judge court is therefore reversed and the case is remanded for further proceedings.

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you Mr. Justice Blackmun.