McDaniel v. Sanchez

LOCATION: Minnesota State Legislature

DOCKET NO.: 80-180
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

CITATION: 452 US 130 (1981)
ARGUED: Mar 02, 1981
DECIDED: Jun 01, 1981

Lawrence G. Wallace - on behalf of the United States as amicus curiae
Richard A. Hall - on behalf of the Petitioners
Robert G. Parmley - on behalf of the Respondents
Robert J. Parmley - for respondents

Facts of the case


Media for McDaniel v. Sanchez

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 02, 1981 in McDaniel v. Sanchez

Warren E. Burger:

We'll hear arguments first this morning in McDaniel v. Sanchez.

Mr. Hall, you may proceed whenever you are ready.

Richard A. Hall:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court:

This is a case which presents the question of whether Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which is 42 U.S.C. 1973c, requires the pre-clearance of a county reapportionment plan which was prepared after a trial at the Court's direction, after a previous plan had been invalidated, and after an evidentiary hearing upon the use of the proposed plan.

And when the plan that was newly completed was declared by the trial court to be one which should be used for the 1980 elections.

The original lawsuit was brought alleging an existing districting plan for four commissioners' precincts of Kleberg County to be unconstitutional first because the existing plan diluted the vote of the Mexican-American residents of the County, and secondly because it violated the one-man-one-vote principle of the Constitution.

The trial of the case was devoted primarily to the first question; that is, whether the existing plan diluted the voting strength of Mexican-American residents.

At the conclusion of the trial the trial court held that there had been no dilution of Mexican-American voting strength but that there was a violation of the one-man-one-vote principle and ordered that the County prepare a new plan and submit it to the Court for consideration.

The trial court set a hearing date on the new plan, the parties appeared at that time... and incidentally, this was a class action brought by Mexican-American residents of Kleberg County.

At the evidentiary hearing on the plan, the trial court heard evidence as to the statistical results and also heard questions with respect to the effect of the new plan on the voting strength of Mexican-Americans, how Mexican-American residents and voters had been affected by the particular plan that was presented.

The plan was actually prepared by a professor from Texas A & I University, whose sole objective was to achieve an equality in number between the four precincts.

He was instructed however, on one occasion, that the County would prefer that a boundary line be withdrawn to include the courthouse in Commissioners' precinct number 1, he was also asked to try to maintain the integrity of existing voting or election precincts, rather than to divide them up.

He accomplished all this, although he did have to divide or split a number of voting precincts.

And as we have pointed out in our brief, this is an action which could only be taken by the Commissioners' Court in July or August of a given year and it was not done in the Texas Court... it was not done in that time-period and the Texas courts have held that a Commissioners' Court, itself, is absolutely precluded from making a division of Commissioners' precincts other than at the stated time, and that is--

Harry A. Blackmun:

Your opposition disagrees with that, don't they?

Richard A. Hall:

--I know they do, Your Honor, but I disagree with my opposition, because I think that the case of Wilson v. Weller makes it very clear, both in its holding and its distinguishing of another Texas Supreme Court case that where in fact election precincts... and we're not talking about Commissioners' precincts at this point, we're talking about election precincts, when election precincts are divided, or the boundaries are re-drawn... it can only be done in July or August and at no other time.

In any event, it is a factor in this lawsuit simply because of this Court's holding in East Carroll Parish v. Marshall, in which the fact that a Louisiana police jury had no authority to reapportion itself pursuant to an enabling statute which had been questioned by the Attorney General was suggested to be dispositive of the question whether the particular plan was a court-ordered plan or was a legislative plan.

In any event, the trial court did review the plan and in its order stated that he had considered the Plaintiff's objections to the plan as well, and the Plaintiff did come forward with evidence challenging the proposed plan on the basis that it did dilute Mexican-American voting strength.

The Court concluded that the plan was acceptable and ordered that it should be used in 1980.

Harry A. Blackmun:

Did the District Court in any way alter the plan as proposed?

Richard A. Hall:

No, Your Honor, the District Court did not.

And following his approval of the plan, there followed a series of procedural steps which resulted in the Fifth Circuit's summary determination that the plan could not be used and should be submitted to the Attorney General or to the District Court in the District of Columbia for preclearance under the Voting Rights Act before it could be put into effect.

And of course, that raises the question presented... the question presented here, whether a plan conceived as this one was, in the course of litigation which had been long since commenced was required to be submitted for Section 5 preclearance or whether the District Court could order such a plan into effect without preclearance.

Byron R. White:

Did you argue to the Fifth Circuit that the Commissioners' Court didn't have power to reapportion itself in accordance with this plan?

Richard A. Hall:

We did in a motion for rehearing, Your Honor.

The truth of the matter is that the question was presented to the Fifth Circuit in a series of briefs that were directed toward a summary reversal of the District Court's order.

Byron R. White:

Well because the per curiam in the Court of Appeals says

"by submitting a proposed reapportionment plan to the District Court, the Kleberg County Commissioners' Court complied with and fulfilled its legislative responsibilities. "

Richard A. Hall:

Well I think, Your Honor, that the legislative responsibilities of which the Fifth Circuit was speaking was... a one to which this Court has addressed so many times, and that is simply the preparation of a plan or the submission of a plan at the direction of the Trial Court rather than the preparation of that plan by the Trial Court itself.

I think that's the fulfillment of legislative duty which is suggested.