Johnson v. De Grandy

LOCATION: Residence of Margaret Gilleo

DOCKET NO.: 92-519
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1993-1994)

CITATION: 512 US 997 (1994)
ARGUED: Oct 04, 1993
DECIDED: Jun 30, 1994

C. Allen Foster - on behalf of De Grandy, et al
James A. Feldman - on behalf of the United States
Joel I. Klein - on behalf of Florida, et al

Facts of the case


Media for Johnson v. De Grandy

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 04, 1993 in Johnson v. De Grandy

William H. Rehnquist:

We'll hear argument now in three consolidated cases.

Number 92-519, Johnson v. De Grandy; 92-593, De Grandy v. Johnson; 92-767, United States v. Florida.

Mr. Klein.

Joel I. Klein:

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

The district court incorrectly held that Florida's legislative districting plan violates section 2 of the Voting Rights Act by diluting the votes of Hispanics living in Dade County.

The Florida plan provides Dade County Hispanics with a proportional share of majority districts, and we submit that such an allocation necessarily gives them the same opportunity as others to elect voters, to elect representatives of their choice, which is all that section 2, by its terms, requires.

The United States agrees with us that proportionality is sufficient, but it argues that we must show proportionality with respect to all Hispanics in Florida, not just those living in Dade County.

But the problem with that argument is that it's flatly inconsistent with this Court's decision in Gingles, which held that any group claiming vote dilution must show that it is sufficiently large and geographically compact to constitute a majority in a single-member district.

In Florida, there's only one such group of Hispanics who can meet that threshold requirement, and those are the Hispanics living in Dade County, and they, as I've said, already have proportional representation.

The remaining Hispanics in Florida are so geographically diverse that it is impossible to construct anything remotely resembling a compact district in which they could be a majority.

Now, the United States' response is, well, you can create more districts for Hispanics in Dade County.

But that simply misses the point of Gingles, which is, in the absence of compactness, the State plan simply doesn't dilute Hispanic votes, and therefore there's no violation under section 2 and no remedial districts in any location are required.

The United States' argument also has the other problem of being incompatible with the text of section 2, which protects a right to elect representatives, not a right to have representatives elected by others of the same race who may live hundreds of miles away in the State.

A concept that the United States calls, quote, virtual representation, but which is nowhere mentioned in the statute, legislative history, or numerous decisions of this Court addressing section 2.

So, if I can, let me state the principle that we think governs the appeal, and that is that a State plan satisfies section 2 if it provides a proportional share of majority districts to each geographically compact group of minorities, something that the Florida plan indisputably does.

If I might, now, let me return--

Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

Mr. Klein, I assume that you are asking us to reject this notion of the Statewide frame of reference totally, for this case and for every case?

Joel I. Klein:

--I think you have to reject it in the following sense.

Unless you can show reasonable geographic compactness throughout the State, which you might be able to show in a case like Bandemer where there were 59 percent Democrats or Republicans.

Unless you can show that, I think you have to reject it and I think Gingles requires it.

So I think that is my position.

And, indeed, I would suggest to the Court, if one looks at the array of voting rights cases, from '65 forward, frankly, they are always brought locale by locale.

They may be a multidistrict situation, but they're not brought in a Statewide basis for precisely this reason.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Well, even... I had thought perhaps a Statewide basis was the proper focus.

But if the proof at trial of those complaining is limited to, as it was in this case, Dade County, I'm not sure that we need to go beyond that now.

Joel I. Klein:

I agree with you, Justice O'Connor, that the proof in this case was limited to Dade County.

And I think it's sufficient to dispose of this appeal.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

And that's enough to dispose of the case, is it not?

Joel I. Klein:

It is.

I do want to make the added point... it absolutely enough, but I do want to make the added point that there would be no possible reason for a remand.