Roman v. Sincock

LOCATION: Alabama State Capitol

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1962-1965)

CITATION: 377 US 695 (1964)
ARGUED: Dec 09, 1963
DECIDED: Jun 15, 1964

Facts of the case

Following the Supreme Court's decision in Baker v. Carr (369 U.S. 186) Richard Sincock and several other New Castle County residents, taxpayers, and qualified voters, challenged the constitutionality of Delaware's apportionment scheme. The suit alleged that under Delaware's 1897 state constitution, no provisions existed for reapportionment that would reflect the changing demographic face of New Castle County and the City of Wilmington. On a appeal from a three-judge district court ruling against the state of Delaware, the Supreme Court granted Mabel Roman, Delaware's elections clerk, certiorari.


Did Delaware's apportionment scheme violate the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause, by disregarding population as a basis for determining congressional districts?

Media for Roman v. Sincock

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 09, 1963 (Part 1) in Roman v. Sincock

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 09, 1963 (Part 2) in Roman v. Sincock

Earl Warren:


Frederick Bernays Wiener:

Yes, Your Honor.

Earl Warren:


Vincent A. Theisen:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

The decision of the statutory court below, consisting as this Court knows, of Judge Biggs, Judge Wright and Judge Layton, declaring the apportionment provisions of the Delaware Constitution inviolate under the Fourteenth Amendment and the subsequent injunction which restrained the defendants, appellants below from conducting any elections for the membership of the General Assembly was, in our opinion, clearly correct in both instances and we ask that the opinion below be affirmed.

Now, because my friend, Mr. Wiener, suggests that there are maybe some novelty present in the Delaware litigation that was not argued heretofore in the other reapportionment cases that your -- the bench heard during the week of November 12th of this year, we think it might be appropriate to define more precisely the issues that were presented to the court below, the issues therefore they are before you, and are set forth, if I may, a more clear exposition of the grounds upon which that decision below rests.

As a prologue to my argument, permit me to agree in principle with Colonel Wiener that Delaware, perhaps, in some ways, is very unique.

It was, as Your Honors know, the first case -- the first state rather to ratify the Constitution of the United States, an event which we celebrate in our State each December 7th of each year.

One of the 13 original colonies, it ranks second smallest in area of the 50 States.

It is smaller in this regard as this Court heard than Saint Lawrence County in New York State.

It is smaller, of course, than many counties throughout this nation.

It is 48th of the 50 States in population in -- and that is, it ranks 48th in numbers.

Its northern border is about 94 miles away from its southern border.

At its widest point, it is about 35 miles in width that is on the southern end of the State.

On the upper end, it is about an arc of 8 miles drawn from New Castle County's Courthouse.

Its highest point, Your Honors please, is about 440 feet above sea -- sea level.

It contains no dormitory counties, such as you have heard exist in Maryland or in Connecticut or in New York.

It has no large military concentrations within its borders such as Virginia.

It has no offshore islands such as Rhode Island or Massachusetts, nor does it have any widely separated regions such as -- are to be found in the upper peninsula of Michigan.

Delaware is uniquely compact and uniquely accessible from one end of the State to the other.

Our capital is, as you know, in Dover and Dover is situate about 50 miles from Wilmington.

It is within easy accessible driving range, within one hour from any portion of our State.

Our legislators who meet in the General Assembly, a number of whom are here today to hear these arguments, commute daily back and forth from their homes to Dover into the General Assembly.

So we have none of the other problems as we see it that might affect your decision in other cases.

Ours is uniquely our case and we would like to confine our unique case for your consideration to the following facts.

The Delaware General Assembly is a bicameral body.

It consists, of course, of a Senate, an upper House and a House of Representatives.

The composition of both of these Houses was fixed by the Convention of 1896 and became effective in 1897.

We have not had reapportionment prior to the institution of this suit since 1897 and before that we had no apportionment in our State -- reapportionment from the period of 1831 to 1897.

Now then, in 1897, the Convention contrived of a House of Representatives consisting not of county representation, if you please, but it created geographical representative districts.