Vieth v. Jubelirer Case Brief

Facts of the case

After the 2000 census reduced the size of the Pennsylvania Congressional delegation by two members, the Republican-controlled state legislature passed a redistricting plan that clearly benefitted Republican candidates. Several members of the Democratic party sued in federal court, claiming that the plan was unconstitutional because it violated the one-person, one-vote principle of Article I, Section 2 of Constitution, the Equal Protection clause, the Privileges and Immunities clause, and the freedom of association.The district court dismissed all but the Article I, Section 2 claim. It held that the voters bringing the suit had not proved that they would be denied representation, only that they would be represented by Republican officials. Because the plaintiffs (those bringing the suit) were not denied the right to vote, to be placed on the ballot box, to associate as a party, or to express their political opinions, their political discrimination claims failed.However, the court found the act unconstitutional because it created districts with different numbers of voters, thereby violating the one-person, one-vote principle. Because the plaintiffs had shown that it was possible to create districts with smaller differences, and because the defendants had failed to justify the disparities resulting under their plan, it was therefore unconstitutional.


The Court held that the existence of the alleged political gerrymandering was a political question which precluded judicial intervention. It clarified that while prior Supreme Court precedent indicated that the constitutional provision for equal protection of the law granted judicial authority to control political gerrymandering, such precedent was erroneous in view of the lack of judicially discoverable and manageable standards for resolving the propriety of voting districts. The judicial power to rectify gerrymandering based on race did not provide a basis for considering the political advantages or disadvantages of voting districts, since political affiliation was clearly not permanently discernible and the effects of political gerrymandering could never be adequately assessed. The U.S. Constitution provided equal protection to persons, not equal representation to political parties.

  • Advocates: John P. Krill, Jr. argued the cause for Appellees Jubelirer and Perzel Paul M. Smith argued the cause for Appellants J. Bart DeLone argued the cause for Appellees Cortes and Accurti
  • Appellant: Robert C. Jubelirer, President of the Pennsylvania Senate, et al.
  • Appellee: Richard Vieth, Norma Jean Vieth, and Susan Furey
  • DECIDED BY:Rehnquist Court
  • Location: Pennsylvania General Assembly
Citation: 541 US 267 (2004)
Granted: Jun 27, 2003
Argued: Dec 10, 2003
Decided: Apr 28, 2004
Vieth v. Jubelirer Case Brief