Texas v. United States

RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: National Endowment for the Arts

DOCKET NO.: 97-29
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-2005)

CITATION: 523 US 296 (1998)
ARGUED: Jan 14, 1998
DECIDED: Mar 31, 1998

Javier Aguilar - Argued the cause for the appellant
Paul R. Q. Wolfson - Department of Justice, argued the cause for the appellees

Facts of the case

In 1995, the Texas Legislature enacted Chapter 39. Chapter 39 holds local school boards accountable to the State for student achievement in the public schools. The State Commissioner of Education may select from various sanctions, including the appointment of a master or a management team and the contracting out of services, when a school district falls short of Chapter 39's accreditation criteria. Under section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Texas submitted Chapter 39 to the United States Attorney General for a determination whether any of the sanctions effected voting and thus required preclearance. Ultimately, the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights cautioned that such sanctions implementation might violate section 5. Subsequently, Texas sought a declaration District Court that section 5 did not apply to such sanctions. The court concluded that Texas's claim was not ripe.


Is Texas's claim for a declaratory judgment that Chapter 39's authorized sanctions against school districts for failure to meet mandated educational achievement levels do not need preclearance ripe for adjudication?

Media for Texas v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 14, 1998 in Texas v. United States

William H. Rehnquist:

We'll hear argument now in Number 97-29, Texas v. The United States.

Mr. Aguilar.

Javier Aguilar:

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

The temporary appointment of a master or a management team with limited powers to assist school districts that are not achieving the academic goals set by the State is not a change with respect to voting but, rather, it is a temporary change with respect to governance.

More precisely, such an appointment does not result in the de facto replacement of the elected school board.

A review of the statute, which you can find at pages 90a through 92a of the jurisdictional statement appendix shows that the board members... excuse me, shows that the master and the management team have very limited powers.

They cannot take any action concerning any type of district elections.

They cannot take any action with regard to the number of board members to be elected, or the method of selecting the board member.

That is, they can't change from single member districts to at large districts to cumulative voting, which is available to them under the Education Code.

They may not set a tax rate for the district.

They cannot adopt a budget that's different than the one that the school board members themselves have voted for and adopted.

Antonin Scalia:

If all that is true, Mr. Aguilar, then you have no problem.

Javier Aguilar:

We... I--

Antonin Scalia:

Just go ahead and do it, and--

Javier Aguilar:

--That is correct, Your Honor.


Antonin Scalia:

--So why are you here?

Javier Aguilar:

--We're here because in fact, when this legislation was passed, we submitted all of the amendments to the Education Code, both those that affected voting and those that didn't.

We just presented it with all of them.

We did not identify these provisions as being election related.

The Department of Justice, the Attorney General informed us that they believed that they were, and requested us to submit further information.

Antonin Scalia:

That they were?

Javier Aguilar:

That they--

Antonin Scalia:

Were always, or could be?

Javier Aguilar:

--Well, that they believed that--

Antonin Scalia:

Might be.

Javier Aguilar:

--Might be.

Antonin Scalia:

Might be.

Javier Aguilar:

More appropriately stated.

So we answered their questions, thinking that once we provided them with answers to their questions, that they would agree with us that in fact they were not election related.