League of United Latin American Citizens v. Perry

PETITIONER: League of United Latin American Citizens et al.
RESPONDENT: Rick Perry, Governor of Texas, et al.
LOCATION: Board of Immigration Appeals

DOCKET NO.: 05-204
DECIDED BY: Roberts Court (2006-2009)
LOWER COURT: Federal district court

CITATION: 548 US 399 (2006)
GRANTED: Dec 12, 2005
ARGUED: Mar 01, 2006
DECIDED: Jun 28, 2006

ADVOCATES:
Gregory G. Garre - argued the cause for Appellees
Nina Perales - argued the cause for Appellants in No. 05-439
Paul M. Smith - argued the cause for Appellants in No. 05-276
R. Ted Cruz - argued the cause for Appellees

Facts of the case

In 2003, the Texas State Legislature passed a redistricting plan that replaced the one created by a federal judge following the 2000 census. Critics of the plan charged that it was unconstitutional and violated section 2 the Voting Rights Act because it diluted racial minority voting strength and was designed to maximize partisan advantage. A three-judge district court panel disagreed, finding that the plan was constitutional and that the legislature had the right to redistrict in 2003 using census data from 2000.

The case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, but while it was pending the Court decided Vieth v. Jubelirer, another redistricting case from Pennsylvania. Justice Anthony Kennedy, the deciding vote in that case, wrote that the Court could hear claims of partisan discrimination in redistricting cases, but left open the question of the test those claims would be subjected to.

The three-district panel in this case then affirmed its earlier decision, finding that the Texas redistricting plan was not substantively unfair.

Question

Did the Texas legislature violate the Constitution and and the Voting Rights Act when it used 2000 census data to redistrict in 2003 for partisan advantage, resulting in districts that (by 2003 numbers) did not conform to the one person, one vote standard?

Media for League of United Latin American Citizens v. Perry

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 01, 2006 in League of United Latin American Citizens v. Perry

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 28, 2006 in League of United Latin American Citizens v. Perry

John G. Roberts, Jr.:

Justice Kennedy has the opinion in 05-204, League of United Latin American Citizens versus Perry, and the consolidated cases.

Anthony M. Kennedy:

These are consolidated cases that come to us on appeal on the appellants’ challenge, a Congressional redistricting map that the Texas Legislature enacted in 2003.

That 2003 legislative plan replaced a 2001 map.

The 2001 map had been drawn by the United States District Court in earlier litigation.

As the Court has organized the cases, we address three main issues that are presented on the appeals: as to some of the issues there is a judgment on the Court, as to other … of the Court, as to other issues there is an opinion for the Court, and I’ll proceed through those three in order.

First, the appellants contend that the new plan is an unconstitutional statewide political gerrymander.

They attack the congressional districting statewide.

Second, they argue that the plan’s elimination of Congressional District 24 dilutes the Voting Rights Act -- the voting rights of African-Americans in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

The Section 2 prohibits district lines being drawn in a manner that dilutes the votes of the minority group, so long as that group can satisfy the criteria known as the Gingles factors or, you know, jurisprudence.

The third claim is also a Section 2 claim.

There, the appellants challenge the plan’s alteration to District 23 as an unlawful dilution of the voting rights of Latinos in that district.

The District Court ruled against the appellants on all of these three claims.

First, as to the statewide gerrymandering, two terms ago in a case named Vieth versus Jubelirer, five members of this Court agreed that such a claim presents a controversy capable of judicial resolution.

We do not revisit that question, but we do conclude that the appellant’s statewide partisan gerrymandering claims must fail in this case.

The appellants argue this case is different than Vieth and point to the mid-decade character of the plan’s enactment.

They assert the plan was solely motivated by partisan objectives that serve no legitimate purpose and burdened one political group.

Neither the Constitution nor Federal Statutes indicate that it is inherently suspect for a legislature to replace a court-ordered plan with one of its own, and the fact of a mid-decade redistricting alone is no sure indication of an unlawful political gerrymandering.

At the very end of this claim, the appellants contend that the 2003 plan violates the Constitution’s one person/one vote requirement, and this argument, which depends entirely on reasoning that mirrors the attack on the mid-decade redistricting, similarly fails.

The challenge to the statewide redistricting as an unconstitutional gerrymandering therefore is rejected.

On this aspect of the case, the Chief Justice, joined by Justice Alito, concur in the judgment; Justice Scalia, joined by Justice Thomas, would dismiss these claims as nonjusticiable; Justices Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg and Breyer join the portion of the judgment declining to revisit justiciability.

Justices Souter and Ginsburg join in rejecting the appellant’s one person/one vote claim; and Justice Stevens in a separate opinion, joined by Justice Breyer, would have found a statewide unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering.

So the second claim refers to District 24.

The appellant’s contend that the new plan’s elimination of former District 24 violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

They argue that because African-American voters control this Dallas district, its elimination unlawfully dilutes their voting rights.

Prior to the 2003 plan, District 24 voters had elected an Anglo Democrat by the name of Martin Frost in every election since 1978.

Even if African-Americans in the old District 24 can state a vote-dilution claim with only 25% of the voting population, they cannot surmount the District Court’s rejection of their questionable evidence about their ability to elect an African-American candidate of their choice.

The Chief Justice and Justice Alito join my opinion on this point; Justice Scalia and Justice Thomas rely on their position, stated in an earlier case of Holder v. Hall, concur in the judgment on the grounds that Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act does not apply to challenges such as these; in a separate opinion joined by Justice Ginsburg, Justice Souter would have held that a minority group comprising less than 50% of a district’s voting population can state a Section 2 vote-dilution claim; Justice Souter also concluded that Congressman Frost’s support in the African-American community showed he was their candidate of choice, and for these reasons he would vacate the judgment of the District Court and remand for further proceedings; Justice Stevens would have found the elimination of District 24 to be an unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering.

So the judgment of the Court on this issue is that the challenge to the drawing of the lines for the new District 24 is rejected.

That brings us to District 23.

In order to protect a Republican incumbent who was losing support from Latino voters, the effect of the new plan on District 23 was to bring in more Republican voting Anglos while reducing the number of Latinos.