LOCATION: Village of Arlington Heights
DOCKET NO.: 76-777
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
CITATION: 431 US 407 (1977)
ARGUED: Feb 28, 1977
DECIDED: May 31, 1977
A. F. Summer -
Frank R. Parker - for Peggy J
Jerris Leonard -
Lawrence G. Wallace - argued the cause for the United States in No. 76-934
Facts of the case
Media for Connor v. FinchAudio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 28, 1977 in Connor v. Finch
Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - May 31, 1977 in Connor v. Finch
Finally, I have for announcement the opinion and judgment of the Court in No. 76-777, Connor against Finch and three related cases.
The question in this litigation concerns the constitutional validity of a legislative reapportionment plan devised by a three-judge Federal District Court for Mississippi's Senate and House of Representatives.
In No. 76-777 and No. 76-935, the appellants are the Mississippi voters who originally brought this class action in the District Court 12 years ago.
They challenged the Court's entire Senate plan and aspects of the House plan as failing to meet the basic one person, one vote requirements of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
In No. 76-934, the appellant is the Government which was an intervener in the District Court.
These appellants joined in asserting that the District Court's plan works an impermissible dilution of Negro voting strength and they challenged as well the District Court's decree for its failure to order special elections in all legislative districts where new or significantly stronger Negro voting majorities were created by the District Court's plan.
In No. 76-933, the appellants are the state officers who were named as defendants in the District Court.
These appellants assert that the District Court should have accorded greater difference to Mississippi's historic policy of respecting county boundaries and thus should have established multimember legislative districts and they further assert that the Court barred in ordering any special elections at all.
We do not reach all the complicated issues raised by the various appellants because we have concluded that both the Senate and the House reapportionments ordered by the District Court, failed to meet the most elemental requirement of the Equal Protection Clause in this area.
That legislative districts be as nearly of equal population as is practicable.
Accordingly, we reversed the judgment of the District Court and remand the case for further proceedings.
Twelve years have passed since this litigation began, but there are still no constitutionally and permissible apportionment plan for the Mississippi legislature.
It is therefore imperative for the District Court in drawing up a new plan to make every effort, not only to comply with established constitutional standards but also to allay suspicions and avoid the creation of concerns that might lead to new constitutional challenges.
In view of the serious questions raised concerning the purpose and effect of the present decrees unusually shaped legislative districts in areas with concentrations of Negro population, the District Court on remand should either draw a legislative districts that are reasonably contiguous and compact so as to put to rest suspicions that Negro voting strength is being impermissibly diluted or explain precisely why in a particular instance that goal cannot be accomplished.
The task facing the District Court on remand must be approached, not only with great care but with a compelling awareness of the need for its expeditious accomplishment so that the citizens of Mississippi at long last will be enabled to elect a legislature that properly represents them.
Mr. Justice Blackmun has filed a separate opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment in which opinion he has joined by the Chief Justice.
Mr. Justice Powell has filed a dissenting opinion.
Mr. Justice Rehnquist took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.
Warren E. Burger:
Thank you, Mr. Justice Stewart.