Perry v. Perez

PETITIONER: Rick Perry, Governor of Texas et al.
RESPONDENT: Shannon Perez, et al.
LOCATION: The Radisson Hotel

DOCKET NO.: 11-713
DECIDED BY: Roberts Court (2010-2016)

CITATION: 565 US (2012)
GRANTED: Dec 09, 2011
ARGUED: Jan 09, 2012
DECIDED: Jan 20, 2012

Jose Garza - for the appellees
Paul D. Clement - for the appellants
Sri Srinivasan - Principal Deputy Solicitor General, Department of Justice, for the United States, as amicus curiae, supporting affirmance in part and vacatur in part

Facts of the case

The United States Census Bureau conducted a national census in 2010. In May and June of 2011, the Texas Legislature created a new electoral map based on changes in the state's population. Texas Governor Rick Perry signed the new map into law in July of 2011.

Under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, either the Justice Department or a special three-judge district court must approve new electoral maps before state officials may enact the map. Texas officials submitted its map to the three-judge court in Washington. The Washington court determined that state officials had used improper standards with respect to two districts. It further held that a three-judge panel in the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas must designate an interim redistricting plan for the 2012 election cycle.

The district court redrew 36 electoral districts. Governor Perry and other state officials appealed the district court's redistricting to the Supreme Court and requested that the Supreme Court stop the enactment of the lower court's new map. The Supreme Court granted the appeal and stopped the enactment of the lower court's new map until the Supreme Court could issue a further order on the matter.


Did the district court abuse its discretion under the Voting Rights Act when it redrew 36 electoral districts?

Media for Perry v. Perez

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 09, 2012 in Perry v. Perez

John G. Roberts, Jr.:

We will hear argument next today in Case 11-713, Perry v. Perez and the consolidated cases.

Mr. Clement.

Paul D. Clement:

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

The judicial maps drawn here are truly remarkable.

They reflect the reality that the district court below lost sight of first principles.

The court repeatedly invoked the principle that these were only interim maps and not remedial maps, but that obscures the reality that a court has the authority to draw an election map, surely one of the most powerful judicial tools in the judicial arsenal, only if it is identifying specific statutory or constitutional violations or a substantial likelihood thereof.

Sonia Sotomayor:

Mr. Clement, section 5 says you can't draw new maps unless they have been precleared.

You can't put them into effect.

Paul D. Clement:


Sonia Sotomayor:

So the only thing that exists is old maps until you get the preclearance.

I don't see how we can give deference to an enacted new map, if section 5 says don't give it effect until its been precleared.

Paul D. Clement:

--Well, Justice Sotomayor, obviously section 5 is clear that the new map drawn by the Texas legislature, the new maps drawn by the Texas legislature, cannot take effect of their own force.

But that doesn't answer the question of whether a judge when having to impose a remedial map to address what all concede is a one-person, one-vote problem with the benchmark maps can look to the new maps which also remedy that same one-person, one-vote problem, for guidance.

And this Court in its--

Sonia Sotomayor:

But you are asking for more than for guidance.

You are asking for deference.

You are saying they have to start with the new map even though that map hasn't been approved.

Paul D. Clement:

--That's right, Your Honor.

Sonia Sotomayor:

Instead of starting, as the court below did, with the old map which had been approved.

Paul D. Clement:


We are, in fairness we are asking for it to be used as the starting point for drawing the new map, but that's because--

Sonia Sotomayor:

Doesn't that turn section 5 on its head?

Paul D. Clement:

--No, I don't think so, Your Honor, for a number of reasons.

One is that the obligation to go to the preclearance court or to go to the Attorney General remains fully in place.

So the only question is, what is going to inform the district court in Texas's exercise of remedial authority to remedy the one-person, one-vote problem with the remedial plans -- with the benchmark plans, rather.

Now, this Court from the very beginning of its reapportionment cases has emphasized the need to look for legislative guidance in order to inform the judicial exercise of solving that reapportionment problem; and the need to look to the new maps I think is most acute, of course, with the congressional maps, because the benchmark is -- is a fine map, but it's a map for 32 seats.

And Congress here -- the legislature of Texas has spoken as to how it would like to divide the new 36-seat allocation up, and it seems to be quite odd that the court would simply ignore that judgment when it could look to that as the starting point.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

It didn't ignore it.

It took it into account along with other plans.

My -- Mr. Clement, suppose the D.C. court that has exclusive authority over preclearance in mid-February denies preclearance.