Hathorn v. Lovorn

LOCATION: Mississippi University for Women

DOCKET NO.: 81-451
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: Supreme Court of Mississippi

CITATION: 457 US 255 (1982)
ARGUED: Apr 27, 1982
DECIDED: Jun 15, 1982

James C. Mayo - on behalf of the Petitioners
Laurel G. Weir - on behalf of the Respondents
William Bradford Reynolds - on behalf of the United States as amicus curiae

Facts of the case


Media for Hathorn v. Lovorn

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 27, 1982 in Hathorn v. Lovorn

Warren E. Burger:

We will hear arguments next in Hathorn against Lovorn.

Mr. Mayo, I think you may proceed whenever you're ready.

James C. Mayo:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court:

This case is a Section 5 Voting Rights Act case up from the Mississippi Supreme Court.

The issue that is before this Court is can the Mississippi Supreme Court order noncompliance with the Voting Rights Act.

A submission was made... and I would add, voluntarily made... on the basis that we did it on an issue that we raised before the Chancery Court of Winston County and made a submission to the Justice Department under Section 5 of the Act for preclearance on changes in the method and manner of the election of the trustees of the Louisville Municipal Separate School District.

Mr. Mayo, you say the issue is whether the Supreme Court of Mississippi can require noncompliance with the Voting Rights Act.

Do you think the opinion of the Supreme Court of Mississippi has ordered noncompliance or has simply refused to order compliance?

James C. Mayo:

Well, we were placed under... we have received this letter from the Justice Department telling us that the changes were legally unenforceable.

But the decree, the final decree of the lower court, ordered the election to remain in force subject to compliance with the Act, and the decision of the Mississippi Supreme Court in 52758 advised us and ordered us and mandated us to ignore the lower court, which required compliance with the Voting Rights Act.

Well, where does that leave you?

The Supreme Court of Mississippi simply said that the chancellor shouldn't have put in the direction that the election comply with the Voting Rights Act.

Do you think that after the decision of the Supreme Court of Mississippi you are no longer free to go into federal court and urge that the federal Voting Rights Act govern?

James C. Mayo:

Well, I think our relief under the Voting Rights Act as I understand it is we either obtain approval or resubmit to Justice or we go into the District Court of Columbia, is the way I interpret the Act, Your Honor.

You don't think you could have gone into a federal Court in Mississippi just for a declaration that the Voting Rights Act did cover it or had not been complied with?

James C. Mayo:

Not in the face of the fact that we had made the submission to the Justice Department and they had turned us down and said the changes in the election procedure were legally unenforceable.

Or could you have sought an injunction in Mississippi federal Court?

James C. Mayo:

Well, once again, under Section 5 there is a three-judge relief that is afforded.

But I really feel like, since we had made the submission, that we were limited to two avenues which I have previously stated, either Justice or the D.C. Court in Columbia.

Well, wasn't there a federal case filed?

James C. Mayo:

Yes, sir.

But the federal case was not... which federal case?

The one filed by the Justice Department?

The one filed by the Justice Department was not filed until just prior to this election last December.

Now, the original suit was filed in the district court, but because of the existence of the state law the district court judge sent it back to Mississippi, the Mississippi courts, for a definition under Section 37-7-203.

And he dismissed the case?

James C. Mayo:

He dismissed the case ultimately, not immediately but ultimately.

He just sent it back for state law construction, didn't he?

James C. Mayo:

That's true, yes, sir.

How about the federal issue?