Dougherty County Board of Education v. White

PETITIONER:Dougherty County Board of Education
LOCATION:United States District Court for the District of Columbia

DOCKET NO.: 77-120
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)

CITATION: 439 US 32 (1978)
ARGUED: Oct 02, 1978 / Oct 03, 1978
DECIDED: Nov 28, 1978

John R. Myer – argued the cause for the appellee
Jesse W. Walters – argued the cause for the appellants
Lawrence G. Wallace – Deputy Solicitor General, Department of Justice, argued the cause for the United States as amicus curiae urging affirmance

Facts of the case


Media for Dougherty County Board of Education v. White

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – October 02, 1978 in Dougherty County Board of Education v. White
Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – October 03, 1978 in Dougherty County Board of Education v. White

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – November 28, 1978 in Dougherty County Board of Education v. White

Warren E. Burger:

The judgment and opinion of the Court in Dougherty County, Georgia, Board of Education against White will be announced by Mr. Justice Marshall.

Thurgood Marshall:

This case is here on appeal from a three-judge District Court for the Middle District of Georgia.

And the issue is whether a county Board of education in a state covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act must seek federal approval of a rule requiring its employees to take unpaid leaves of absence while they campaign for elective office.

Appellee, a Negro employee of the Dougherty County Board of Education announced his candidacy for the Georgia House of Representatives in May of 1972.

Less than a month later, the Board adopted a rule requiring its employees to take unpaid leaves of absence while they’re a candidate for elective political office.

As a result of the rule, appellee was forced to take leave while seeking election to the Georgia House in 1972, 1974 and 1976 and lost over $11,000 in salary.

When compelled to take his certain leave of absence, he brought this action alleging that the Rule 58 was unenforceable because it had not been precleared by the Attorney General of the United States or the District Court of the District Columbia as required by Section 5.

A three-judge District Court concluded that the rule did have a potential for discrimination and therefore enjoined his enforcement pending compliance as Rule 5.

An opinion filed today with the clerk, we hold that Rule 58 is a change in a “standard practice and procedure with respect to voting” adopted by a political subdivision subject to the preclearance requirements of Section 5.

Today’s conclusion follows directly from our prior decisions mandating approval of any changes that affect the qualifications or ability of candidates to run for office.

By imposing substantial disincentives on employees and seek political office, Rule 58 limits entry into the electoral process that has a potential of limiting the choices available to Dougherty County voters.

In effect, the rule is no different from the filing fee or filing date changes from which we have previously required preclearance.

Although the Board does not in itself conduct elections or vote or registration, we held last term in United States against the Board of Government — Sheffield, Alabama that Section 5 is applicable to any entity that exercise control over the electoral process by attaching a price tag to candidate’s participation.

The Board has made clear its ability to exercise power over elections in Dougherty County thus the Sheffield case is dispositive of the question whether the Board is indeed a political subdivision within the purview of Section 5.

In our dissenting today, we do not intimate any conclusion on the ultimate question which the Attorney General or the District of Columbia District Court will face our submission of the rule for preclearance, that is, whether the rule in fact has a discriminatory purpose or effect.

Rather, we hold only that because Rule 58 has a potential from such discrimination it must be submitted for approval.

The judgment of the District Court is therefore affirmed.

Mr. Justice Powell has filed a dissenting opinion in which the Chief Justice and Mr. Justice Rehnquist join.

Mr. Justice Stewart dissents for the reasons expressed in Part I of that dissenting opinion.

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you Mr. Justice Marshall.