Shaw v. Hunt

LOCATION: North Carolina General Assembly

DOCKET NO.: 94-923
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-2005)

CITATION: 517 US 899 (1996)
ARGUED: Dec 05, 1995
DECIDED: Jun 13, 1996

Edwin M. Speas, Jr. - Argued the cause for appellees Hunt et al. in both cases
Julius LeVonne Chambers - on behalf of Appellees Gingles, et al
Paul Bender - Argued the cause for the United States as amicus curiae urging affirmance
Robinson O. Everett - Argued the cause for the appellants in Shaw v. Hunt
Thomas A. Farr - Argued the cause for the appellants in Pope v. Hunt

Facts of the case

Residents of North Carolina challenged a plan to create two congressional districts on the ground that the proposed districts were racially gerrymandered. On initial review, a three-judge District Court panel dismissed the action only to have its decision reversed and remanded to it by the Supreme Court. However, the Court's standard for review left very little room for racial engineering of congressional voting districts. On remand, the District Court found the redistricting plans to be racially tailored and, therefore, unconstitutional. Again, the matter was appealed to the Supreme Court.


Does North Carolina's redistricting plan constitute racial gerrymandering in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment's equal protection clause?

Media for Shaw v. Hunt

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 05, 1995 in Shaw v. Hunt

William H. Rehnquist:

We'll hear argument next in Number 94 923, Ruth Shaw v. James B. Hunt; Number 94 924, James Pope v. James B. Hunt.

Mr. Everett, you may proceed.

Robinson O. Everett:

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

I suppose I better do one thing at the outset to maintain the honor of North Carolina.

There was a question about two of the districts in Texas being, I believe, the least compact in the country, and I have here perfect evidence that we have four of the least compact.

Justice O'Connor will remember this map, because it was appended to her opinion in Shaw v. Reno, and the twelfth, I think... the snake... leads the country.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

The Court's opinion, Mr. Everett.

Robinson O. Everett:

I'm sorry, Your Honor.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

The Court's opinion, not my opinion.

Robinson O. Everett:

The Court's opinion, one which you authored.

I apologize, Your Honor.

But in any event, the Court became aware of the absence of compactness, which leads into another point.

There was a discussion of the difference between narrow tailoring and broad tailoring.

I think we have here the exhibit of no tailoring.

And I'd like to make one other point, just to explain why we are here, and perhaps it reflects a rather naive understanding of the Constitution, of the Equal Protection Clause, but my impression has been that if there were two water fountains over there, one of which said African American, and another of which said, women, and another over here which said male, and said white, and if that in effect was here, with the signs, that I would be perfectly entitled to go to any one of those four fountains and drink the water.

The water would be the same everywhere, but the Court nor other public body, no State, no Federal body could approve racial classifications.

And the reason we're here is because this map reflects a redistricting plan which, in effect, is a racial classification.

That's what this is about.

That map says there are two black districts and there are ten white districts.

John Paul Stevens:

Does it say that the people in those districts can drink at either water fountain?

Can they vote both either Democratic or Republican, as they choose?

Robinson O. Everett:

They can vote as they please, Justice Stevens, but on the other hand they are preconditioned in their behavior by the fact that these districts carry a message.

They carry a message for the voters--

John Paul Stevens:

The same message your signs carry.

Robinson O. Everett:

--Your Honor?

John Paul Stevens:

The same message that your signs carry, I guess, but they actually didn't inhibit.

Robinson O. Everett:


John Paul Stevens:

You pick the fountain you wanted to pick.

Robinson O. Everett:

We are saying that these, though, carry a message, and the signs would be impermissible.

This Court did that.