Shaw v. Reno

LOCATION: North Carolina General Assembly

DOCKET NO.: 92-357

CITATION: 509 US 630 (1993)
ARGUED: Apr 20, 1993
DECIDED: Jun 28, 1993

Edwin S. Kneedler - Argued the cause for the federal appellees
H. Jefferson Powell - Argued the cause for the state appellees
Janet Reno - for the Civil Rights Division, interposed a formal objection to the General Assembly's plan
Robinson O. Everett - Argued the cause for the appellants

Facts of the case

The U.S. Attorney General rejected a North Carolina congressional reapportionment plan because the plan created only one black-majority district. North Carolina submitted a second plan creating two black-majority districts. One of these districts was, in parts, no wider than the interstate road along which it stretched. Five North Carolina residents challenged the constitutionality of this unusually shaped district, alleging that its only purpose was to secure the election of additional black representatives. After a three-judge District Court ruled that they failed to state a constitutional claim, the residents appealed and the Supreme Court granted certiorari.


Did the North Carolina residents' claim, that the State created a racially gerrymandered district, raise a valid constitutional issue under the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause?

Media for Shaw v. Reno

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 20, 1993 in Shaw v. Reno

William H. Rehnquist:

We'll hear argument now in No. 92-357, Ruth O. Shaw v. Janet Reno.

Mr. Everett.

Robinson O. Everett:

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

As our complaint seeks to make clear, this case poses the basic issue of how far a legislature may go in seeking to guarantee the election to Congress of persons of a particular race.

Perhaps the best evidence is here in the form of the map, which is a reproduction in color of a map which was earlier lodged with the Court at page 133A of the jurisdictional statement in Pope v. Blue, and there are a number of copies of that which I believe are before the Court.

We proceed in a sense on the theory that while we are reluctant to use political pornography... and this has been described as political pornography, but really the only way to understand what took place in North Carolina is to look at the evidence thereof.

And our complaint seeks briefly to set forth the history of the developments in our State.

Basically the Attorney General in the summer of 1991 and in the fall made clear that it was necessary to have two majority-minority districts.

William H. Rehnquist:

Are you talking about the United States Attorney General?

Robinson O. Everett:


Yes, Your Honor.

Indeed, it was Attorney General William Barr at that particular time.

Byron R. White:

Did he... the federal statute?

Robinson O. Everett:

He was relying on the Voting Rights Act.

This was apparently an interpretation of the Voting Rights Act which, as we understand some of the recent opinions of the Court, was erroneous.

At least that's the way we interpret the Growe case and the Voinovich case.

But in any event, he set forth preconditions.

Basically, as we allege in the complaint, the precondition for clearing... for preclearing the North Carolina plan was that there be two seats which would be guaranteed for election of African Americans to the Congress of the United States so that here, in a sense, we oppose the issue of legal segregation of the congressional delegation of North Carolina.

Now, North Carolina is a State where the minority population is relatively dispersed.

Indeed, we have also lodged with the Court various data pertaining to the dispersion of the population throughout the 100 counties of the State.

Most of the black population is concentrated in the east and in the Piedmont, that is to say, along the coast and in the center of the State.

Interestingly, there are only five counties in the State and those, with one exception... and that's not a major exception... are relatively small counties, only five counties in which there is a majority of black persons.

And as a result, after the first plan was submitted to the Attorney General--

William H. Rehnquist:

There are only five counties in which there's a majority of white persons?

Robinson O. Everett:

--Of black persons.

William H. Rehnquist:

Of black persons?

Robinson O. Everett:

Yes, Mr. Chief Justice.

And interestingly, those are counties of relatively small population in the northeastern part of the State.

There's one county which I would say is mid-sized.

So, as a result of that, the only way basically to achieve this objective of having two majority-minority districts... and indeed, these are super majority-minority districts because it's not 51 percent.