Lassiter v. Northampton County Board of Elections

PETITIONER: Lassiter
RESPONDENT: Northampton County Board of Elections
LOCATION: Roosevelt Bar and Tavern

DOCKET NO.: 584
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1958-1962)
LOWER COURT:

CITATION: 360 US 45 (1959)
ARGUED: May 18, 1959 / May 19, 1959
DECIDED: Jun 08, 1959

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Lassiter v. Northampton County Board of Elections

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - May 18, 1959 in Lassiter v. Northampton County Board of Elections

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - May 19, 1959 in Lassiter v. Northampton County Board of Elections

Earl Warren:

Number 584, Louise Lassiter, Appellant versus Northampton County Board of Elections.

Mr. Lake, you may proceed.

I. Beverly Lake:

Mr. Chief Justice, before getting in to our prepared argument, there are two or three other inaccuracies in the argument yesterday by the appellant to which I should like to address the attention of the Court.

In response to a question by Mr. Justice Frankfurter, counsel for the appellant made the statement as I recall about the doctrine of Yick Wo against Hopkins has application to this case.

In the opinion of the three-judge federal court to which appellant first went which opinion is set forth and fold in the motion to dismiss and in the brief filed as amicus curiae by the Attorney General of North Carolina.

The three-judge court said this and this hearing was just two months before the application to the Northampton County Board out of which this present appeal arises.

According from the three-judge court, at the hearing, it was shown without contradiction that the literacy test was applied by the registrar to white persons and negroes alike without discrimination and the cross examination of the three Negro women who were denied registration by the registrar, amply established adequate basis for the denial if their literacy test is valid.

Counsel for the appellant represented her in that case, following that decision, the appellant under their guidance apparently returned to the Northampton County Board and applied again for registration under the 1957 Act.

In this record which consists of stipulated facts, stipulated by counsel for the appellant who represented her in the lower court and before the Board.

There is not a shadow of suggestion of any unfair arbitrary discriminatory administration of the statute by this Board or by any other election board in the State of North Carolina.

Now of course in this case, I do not speak for the entire State of North Carolina, I represent the County Board of Northampton County which is the defendant in this action.

But in this record, there is no suggestion of arbitrary administration of the statute anywhere in the State of North Carolina.

Counsel for the appellant in his argument yesterday also stated at least in substance, that the Negroes of North Carolina are given more difficult sections to read, more difficult sections of the North Carolina constitution to read than are the white people.

May I refer to the stipulations which are set forth beginning with the Stipulation Number 9 on page 8 of these records.

There, it is stipulated, Louise Lassiter declined and refused to read the proper sections of the said Constitution or any other section thereof.

Section -- or Stipulation 15 on page 9 refers to what happened when she appealed to the County Board of Election from the registrar.

That Louise Lassiter, declined and refused to read the said Board's request -- refused the said Board's request and requirement that she read the profit sections of the Constitution or any other section thereof.

Stipulation 19 that the said Louise -- excuse me, Stipulation 16, that the said Board of Elections upon Louise Lassiter's failing and refusing to read the proper sections of the said Constitution or any other section thereof.

Issued a written order and directed that she be denied registration.

That order is quoted in the record at page 3.

The official order from which this appeal originates states that the Board found as a fact, now skipping down to the middle of the paragraph, it further being found as a fact that the said petitioners refused on June 28, 1957 on the de novo hearing before the Board of Elections to read any section of the State Constitution, she was denied registration.

Now then, on page 9 of the record it is stipulated that the said Louise Lassiter because of her lack of educational qualifications on June 22, 1957 and continuously since that said date until the present date is unable to and has failed and refused to write or read or attempt to write or read any section of the Constitution of North Carolina or any Section of the Constitution of the United States and the English language.

Now, that is the basis for her denial.

Now, in appendix B of our brief, the brief for the defendant Board, I have quoted in full Article VI of the Constitution of North Carolina obviously the purpose is not to pick out a part of the Constitution which is easy to read, that is the part of the Constitution which if any, has application to this case.

And I invite the Court's attention the language of that section, Article VI of the North Carolina Constitution.I will not read it because it is too long.

Earl Warren:

Where is it quoted?

I. Beverly Lake:

It is in the appendix B to my brief Mr. Chief Justice beginning on page 23.

The entire Article VI of the Constitution of North Carolina is set forth there in full.

I may recall --

Felix Frankfurter:

Into what purpose you invite our attention to that?