Sailors v. Board of Education of the County of Kent

PETITIONER: James Sailors
RESPONDENT: Board of Education of the County of Kent
LOCATION: El Paso Natural Gas Co. Headquarters

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1965-1967)

CITATION: 387 US 105 (1967)
ARGUED: Apr 17, 1967 / Apr 18, 1967
DECIDED: May 22, 1967

Facts of the case


Media for Sailors v. Board of Education of the County of Kent

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 18, 1967 in Sailors v. Board of Education of the County of Kent

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 17, 1967 in Sailors v. Board of Education of the County of Kent

Earl Warren:

Number 430, James Sailors et al., versus Board of Education of the County of Kent et al.

Mr. Strawhecker or Mr. Mi -- Mr. Miles first.

Wendell A. Miles:

Yes, Mr. Chief Justice.

It is the contention of the appellant, Mr. James Sailors and others individual plaintiffs of this case that the constitutional principle of Reynolds versus Sims companion cases related thereto extends to the county level of Government.

And on that basis and consistent with those decisions any logic and in some policy that the Equal Protection Clause extends no less to the local level than it does to the state level.

The facts involved in this matter as far as James Sailors and his people related individual plaintiffs are concerned or spouse.

Under the 1960 Census, Kent County, the second largest populous county in the State of Michigan, in Western Michigan had a population of some 363,000.

The City of Grand Rapids which also comprises the Grand Rapids School District has a population of 201,000 of those 363,000 or some 55%, that after World War II as in all communities, large communities, the flight to suburbia the core cities became surrounded with the young afluent populations who generally and before that time had been living in the city to help solve the city's problems.

And the city itself became the receptacle for large numbers of poor culturally deprived people.

It is the contention of the plaintiff that in order to preserve its tax base, the plaintiff as a citizen of the school district, the City of Grand Rapids, and others within that school district made various annexations surrounding and this is rised to the particular controversy involved.

Now, there's a peculiar system set up as an extension of state government into the county level.

Part of county Government is taken cared of by a Board of Supervisors that handles the ditches, the roads, and matters of that type.

And another part of state government delegated to the county level provides for a county board of education.

Now, this is an all powerful important body.

In the City of Michigan under the appropriate acts, this board is composed of five people, the county board in each of the counties of the state, five members and each two years biannually.

Notice goes out to each of the school districts in the county, the individual school districts in the county of which at the time of the origin of this case there was some 40 to 50 to come at a common place and each representative of each of these school districts may then cast its ballot, its ballot for a member or two members for the exception of the third time around of the county board.

William O. Douglas:

Does the popular vote ends with the election of the local school district?

Wendell A. Miles:

Popular vote as such Your Honor, Mr. Justice Douglas, is so set that the indiviudal voter elector has voted for his candidates for the local school board.

That local school board sends its member to this constituent assembly which in turn elects the five members to the county board.

Incidentally --

Earl Warren:

Does the first board have proportionate representation?

Wendell A. Miles:

Is the first board Mr. Chief Justice is elected at large in each case, it has proportionate representation.

Earl Warren:

At large in the county?

Wendell A. Miles:

Yet large within its school district.

Earl Warren:

In school districts.

Wendell A. Miles:

For instance as a resident of the City of Grand Rapids with some 201,000 other people, I am allowed to vote for the nine members of my school district.

And that 201,000 people school district representing 55% of the population of the whole county is allowed one vote as it casts its vote for a member of the county board.

If I was a member of an area known as Nelson Center, I would be coming from an area of 100 people.

I would be casting my vote for the school board which reflects my view, my thought at the next county school board election.

And as a person from Nelson Center, my vote is cast for a member of the county school board equally to and alongside of that member of the City of Grand Rapids School District that has 201,000 people.