Holder v. Hall

PETITIONER: Holder, Individually And In His Official Capacity As County Commissioner For Bleckley County, Georgia, et al.
RESPONDENT: Hall et al.
LOCATION: City of Tigard

DOCKET NO.: 91-2012
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1993-1994)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

CITATION: 512 US 874 (1994)
ARGUED: Oct 04, 1993
DECIDED: Jun 30, 1994

Christopher Coates - on behalf of the Respondents
R. Napier Murphy - on behalf of the Petitioners

Facts of the case

Bleckley County, located at Georgia, had the form of government in accordance to which a commissioner was entitled with all legislative and executive power. In 1985, the State Legislature empowered the county authority to establish through referendum a multimember commission that should include five members chosen from single-member districts, and a chair selected independently, but voters protested against such a decision, as before that they had incorporated the five-member district structure for the county school board.

The appellants were black voters and the local unit of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, who brought suit before the court.

The judges declined their plea regarding that structure of the single-member commission was aimed to restrict the political rights of the black voters and infringed the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. The court ordered against their complaint that the commission's size was the breach of the 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In the results the respondents had only one approve of the three preconditions ruled out in the previous case of Thornburg v. Gingles, 478 U.S. 30.

The Appeal Court reversed the appeal, affirming that all circumstances confirmed two liability and formulation of a remedy, which could be established after the county's school board election system. The judges concluded that the voting procedure was not subjected to the prescriptions of the par. 2 of the mentioned act. Because there was no restricted standard that regulated the structure or size of the government benchmark. Moreover, the appellant didn`t prove the reasonable confirmations why it should include five commissioners members. The decision in Holder v Hall case underlined that despite on that such type of commission was the most common form of government benchmark the one commissioner system has the same political impact in the election. The last point they noted was that the county could establish another size of the of the commission, but such change was not mandatory and could not impact on the voters’ rights.

The judgment was reviewed, and the case was remanded for consideration of respondent’s complaints under constitutional rights.


Media for Holder v. Hall

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 04, 1993 in Holder v. Hall

William H. Rehnquist:

We'll hear argument next in Number 91-2012, Jackie Holder v. E. K. Hall.

Mr. Murphy, you may proceed.

R. Napier Murphy:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court:

This case involves a claim that section 2 of the Voting Rights Act requires Bleckley County, Georgia, to enlarge its current, single-member county commission to a five-person commission.

Our position is that the act cannot be read as authorizing Federal courts to alter the size of governing bodies.

Instead, the existing structure of State and local governments, the number, and types of offices, must be taken as a given, a basic assumption.

Thus, while the method of election may be a cognizable claim, changing the size of a government to prove a voting rights violation is not.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Well now, that means that if, for instance, we had a situation where some counties had three-member commissions and others had five-member commissions, that if minority voters in a three-member commission county sued under section 2 seeking a five-member commission, you would say that, as in this case, section 2 just doesn't cover it.

R. Napier Murphy:

Your Honor, our position is not that section 2 doesn't cover a claim.

Our argument is that section 2 cannot be read as authorizing Federal courts to change the size of the government.

The courts must look at the existing structure when analyzing a section 2 claim.

Anthony M. Kennedy:

Suppose there were a commission, a county commission of five commissioners, and it was shrunk to three, allegedly causing a dilution, would there be a section 2 remedy for the court in that instance?

R. Napier Murphy:

There would be a remedy under section 5.

That change--

Anthony M. Kennedy:

No... no, I said section 2.

R. Napier Murphy:

--If there were a lawsuit seeking to change the size of the government from five--

Anthony M. Kennedy:


No, my hypothetical is that the commission, as constituted, has five commissioners.

It is then reduced to three.

Is there a section 2 violation if it can be shown that there is a dilution?

R. Napier Murphy:

--If there was an intentional reason to dilute minority voting strength because of the reduction, yes, there would be a violation.

It would in my opinion be a section 5 claim instead--

Anthony M. Kennedy:

No, but--

R. Napier Murphy:

--of a section 2 claim.

Anthony M. Kennedy:

--It's not intentional.

Suppose it's not intentional and it's not covered by section 5.

Suppose it's not a section 5 jurisdiction.

R. Napier Murphy:

If there has been a retrogression of minority voting strength and minority votes are diluted by virtue of that change by county government, then there would be a section 2 claim, but the county--

Anthony M. Kennedy:

So that the overarching proposition that section 2 does not apply to changes in the size of a governing body has at least one exception in the case that I put.

R. Napier Murphy:

--No, sir.