Houston Lawyers' Association v. Attorney General of Texas

PETITIONER: Houston Lawyers' Association
RESPONDENT: Attorney General of Texas
LOCATION: Clark County Jail

DOCKET NO.: 90-813
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1990-1991)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

CITATION: 501 US 419 (1991)
ARGUED: Apr 22, 1991
DECIDED: Jun 20, 1991

ADVOCATES:
Julius LeVonne Chambers - on behalf of the Petitioners
Renea Hicks - on behalf of the Respondents

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Houston Lawyers' Association v. Attorney General of Texas

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 22, 1991 in Houston Lawyers' Association v. Attorney General of Texas

William H. Rehnquist:

We'll hear argument next in No. 90-813, Houston Lawyers' Association v. Attorney General of Texas, consolidated with No. 90-974, the League of United Latin American Citizens v. the Attorney General of Texas.

Spectators are admonished to remain silent.

The Court remains in session.

Do not talk until you get outside of the courtroom.

Mr. Chambers, you may proceed whenever you're ready.

Julius LeVonne Chambers:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

This is the thirteenth time or fourteenth time that black citizens from Texas and Mexican Americans from Texas have been before this Court to ask for relief against practices of the State of Texas which denied or limited their participation in the electorial process.

Some of those cases involved overt practices of the State which directly excluded it.

Others involved, as this case does, subtle practices which limited their participation in the electoral process.

Congress, we submit, sought to address that problem when it amended the rights... the Voting Rights Act in 1982.

And we are here today to ask that the intent of Congress in the amendment in 1982 be carried out.

We have in Texas a number of African Americans and Mexican Americans who today are excluded from or limited in the participation in the election of judges in Texas.

We ask that they be permitted, as Congress directed, to participate on an equal basis.

The issue here is whether section 2 of the Voting Rights Act as amended in 1982 applies to the election of judges in Texas.

The district court held that the plaintiffs had established a violation of section 2 and directed interim relief.

The Fifth Circuit with the majority of the court held that section 2 did not apply to the election of judges at all because it read 2(b) to exclude judges.

A concurring opinion held that section 2 applied to the election of all offices including judges.

But in its view there was some unique feature of judges in the district court level in Texas which limited or prohibited the application of section 2.

It found that judges in Texas or the State had an interest in tieing the electorate to the judiciary... to the authority of the judges in Texas.

And it found that there was some single-person office in the way that judges were classified.

The Government advances another theory, and we submit one that is not permitted by the Voting Rights Act, that in some way the Court should weigh, and in some instances permit, State interest to trump deprivations of rights of minorities in the electoral process.

There is nothing in the Voting Rights Act of 1982 that permits that kind of analysis and that kind of weight to be given to the State interest that is being asserted in the case.

With respect to the majority opinion, we rely on the positions that were advanced by the petitioners and the Government in the Chisom case which you just heard.

I would like to turn, unless there is some further question about coverage, to the issues that were raised by the concurring opinion and to the issues that have been presented by the Government brief or amicus brief in this case.

William H. Rehnquist:

Mr. Chambers, let me ask you one question about the meaning of section 2(a) which was, as you point out, was dwelled on rather extensively by counsel in the preceding case.

It said that that embodies the results tests from White against Regester.

Now, do you rely for that simply on the use of the word results as a verb in section 2(a).

Julius LeVonne Chambers:

That the section 2(a) covers the election of judges or--

William H. Rehnquist:

No, no, but that... that it's a results test--

Julius LeVonne Chambers:

--Oh.