Gomillion v. Lightfoot
Argued October 18-19, 1960
Decided November 14, 1960
364 U.S. 339
Negro citizens sued in a Federal District Court in Alabama for a declaratory judgment that an Act of the State Legislature changing the limits of the City of Tuskegee is unconstitutional and for an injunction against its enforcement. They alleged that the Act alters the form of Tuskegee from a rectangular to an irregular 28-sided determine; that it might put off from the City all but four or five of its four hundred Negro electorate with out removing any white voter; and that its impact changed into to deprive Negroes in their proper to vote in Tuskegee elections resulting from their race. The District Court dismissed the criticism on the floor that it had no authority to declare the Act invalid or to alternate any limitations of municipal groups constant by means of the State Legislature.
Held: It erred in doing so, since the allegations, if verified, could set up that the inevitable effect of the Act could be to deprive Negroes of their proper to vote as a consequence of their race, contrary to the Fifteenth Amendment. Pp. 364 U. S. 340-348.
(a) Even the broad power of a State to restore the boundaries of its municipalities is confined by the Fifteenth Amendment, which forbids a State to deprive any citizen of the proper to vote because of his race. Hunter v. Pittsburgh, 207 U. S. 161, and associated instances distinguished. Pp. 364 U. S. 342-345.
(b) A nation statute which is said to have the inevitable impact of depriving Negroes of their right to vote in Tuskegee because of their race isn't always proof against attack in reality because the mechanism hired with the aid of the Legislature is a "political" redefinition of municipal boundaries. Colegrove v. Green, 328 U. S. 549, prominent. Pp. 364 U. S. 346-348.
270 F.2nd 594, reversed.
Page 364 U. S. 340
CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT
Negro residents sued in a Federal District Court in Alabama for a declaratory judgment that an Act of the State Legislature converting the boundaries of the City of Tuskegee is unconstitutional and for an injunction against its enforcement. They alleged that the Act alters the shape of Tuskegee from a square to an abnormal 28-sided parent; that it'd get rid of from the City all however four or five of its four hundred Negro electorate without getting rid of any white voter; and that its impact become to deprive Negroes of their right to vote in Tuskegee elections as a result of their race. The District Court dismissed the criticism at the floor that it had no authority to claim the Act invalid or to exchange any limitations of municipal companies fixed by means of the State Legislature.
Held: It erred in doing so, because the allegations, if proven, would establish that the inevitable effect of the Act might be to deprive Negroes in their right to vote as a result of their race, opposite to the Fifteenth Amendment. Pp. 364 U. S. 340-348.
(a) Even the vast energy of a State to restore the limits of its municipalities is restricted with the aid of the Fifteenth Amendment, which forbids a State to deprive any citizen of the right to vote due to his race. Hunter v. Pittsburgh, 207 U. S. 161, and related cases distinguished. Pp. 364 U. S. 342-345.
(b) A country statute which is said to have the inevitable impact of depriving Negroes in their proper to vote in Tuskegee because of their race is not proof against attack simply due to the fact the mechanism employed with the aid of the Legislature is a "political" redefinition of municipal limitations. Colegrove v. Green, 328 U. S. 549, prominent. Pp. 364 U. S. 346-348.
270 F.second 594, reversed.
MR. JUSTICE FRANKFURTER brought the opinion of the Court.
This litigation challenges the validity, below the US Constitution, of Local Act No. 140, exceeded with the aid of the Legislature of Alabama in 1957, redefining the limits of the City of Tuskegee. Petitioners, Negro residents of Alabama who were, on the time of this redistricting degree, citizens of the City of Tuskegee, added an action within the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama for a declaratory judgment that Act one hundred forty is unconstitutional, and for an injunction to restrain the Mayor and officials of Tuskegee and the officers of Macon County, Alabama, from imposing the Act in opposition to them and other Negroes further located. Petitioners claim is that enforcement of the statute, which alters the form of Tuskegee from a square to an uncouth twenty-eight-sided determine, will constitute a discrimination against them in violation of the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution and will deny them the proper to vote in defiance of the Fifteenth Amendment.
The respondents moved for dismissal of the action for failure to country a claim upon which alleviation will be granted and for loss of jurisdiction of the District Court. The courtroom granted the movement, pointing out,
"This Court has no manipulate over, no supervision over, and no power to trade any limitations of municipal groups fixed by using a duly
Page 364 U. S. 341
convened and elected legislative body, acting for the human beings within the State of Alabama."
167 F. Supp. 405, 410. On appeal, the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, affirmed the judgment, one choose dissenting. 270 F.2nd 594. We introduced the case here, because critical questions have been raised regarding the power of a State over its municipalities in terms of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. 362 U.S. 916.
At this degree of the litigation, we are not involved with the truth of the allegations, that is, the potential of petitioners to maintain their allegations by means of evidence. The sole query is whether the allegations entitle them to make excellent on their declare that they may be being denied rights underneath america Constitution. The complaint, charging that Act one hundred forty is a device to disenfranchise Negro citizens, alleges the following information: previous to Act a hundred and forty, the City of Tuskegee turned into rectangular in shape; the Act converted it right into a surprisingly abnormal twenty-8-sided figure as indicated within the364 U.S. 339appimportant inevitable impact of this redefinition of Tuskegee s limitations is to remove from the town all save four or five of its 400 Negro electorate even as no longer eliminating a unmarried white voter or resident. The end result of the Act is to deprive the Negro petitioners discriminatorily of the benefits of house in Tuskegee, such as, inter alia, the proper to vote in municipal elections.
These allegations, if confirmed, would abundantly establish that Act 140 changed into no longer an everyday geographic redistricting measure, even within familiar abuses of gerrymandering. If these allegations, upon a trial, remained uncontradicted or unqualified, the conclusion would be impossible to resist, tantamount for all realistic purposes to a mathematical demonstration, that the law is solely concerned with segregating white and coloured citizens by means of fencing Negro residents out of town in an effort to deprive them of their pre-existing municipal vote.
Page 364 U. S. 342
It is tough to realize what stands in the manner of adjudging a statute having this inevitable effect invalid in light of the principles with the aid of which this Court have to choose, and uniformly has judged, statutes that, howsoever speciously defined, glaringly discriminate towards colored citizens. "The [Fifteenth] Amendment nullifies sophisticated in addition to simple-minded modes of discrimination." Lane v. Wilson, 307 U. S. 268, 307 U. S. 275.
The complaint amply alleges a claim of racial discrimination. Against this declare the respondents have by no means suggested, either in their quick or in oral argument, any countervailing municipal characteristic which Act one hundred forty is designed to serve. The respondents invoke generalities expressing the State s unrestricted energy -- limitless, this is, by way of the US Constitution -- to establish, destroy, or reorganize through contraction or enlargement its political subdivisions, to-wit, towns, counties, and other local gadgets. We freely understand the breadth and importance of this issue of the State s political power. To exalt this power into an absolute is to misconceive the attain and rule of this Court s selections in the main case of Hunter v. Pittsburgh, 207 U. S. 161, and related cases relied upon by using respondents.
The Hunter case concerned a declare by means of residents of Allegheny, Pennsylvania, that the General Assembly of that State could not direct a consolidation of their city and Pittsburgh over the objection of a majority of the Allegheny citizens. It became alleged that, at the same time as Allegheny already had made numerous civic improvements, Pittsburgh turned into best then planning to undertake such enhancements, and that the annexation would therefore greatly growth the tax burden on Allegheny citizens. All that the case held was (1) that there may be no implied contract between a city and its citizens that their taxes could be spent entirely for the advantage of that city, and (2) that a citizen of 1 municipality isn't always deprived
Page 364 U. S. 343
of assets with out due method of regulation by using being subjected to accelerated tax burdens as a result of the consolidation of his metropolis with some other. Related instances upon which the respondents also rely, including Trenton v. New Jersey, 262 U. S. 182; Pawhuska v. Pawhuska Oil & Gas Co., 250 U. S. 394, and Laramie County v. Albany County, 92 U. S. 307, are far off the mark. They are authority only for the precept that no constitutionally included contractual obligation arises among a State and its subordinate governmental entities entirely due to their courting.
In brief, the cases that have come before this Court concerning regulation by using States managing their political subdivisions fall into training: (1) those in which it's far claimed that the State, through distinctive feature of the prohibition towards impairment of the obligation of contract (Art. I, § 10) and of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, is without energy to extinguish, or alter the limits of, an present municipality; and (2) in which it's miles claimed that the State has no power to trade the identification of a municipality whereby citizens of a preexisting municipality go through serious monetary disadvantage.
Neither of those claims is supported by means of such a selected drawback upon State power as confines the States under the Fifteenth Amendment. As to the first class, it is apparent that the introduction of municipalities -- without a doubt a political act -- does now not come within the thought of a contract below the Dartmouth College Case, four Wheat. 518. As to the second, if one precept truely emerges from the severa decisions of this Court handling taxation, it's far that the Due Process Clause provides no immunity towards mere inequalities in tax burdens, nor does it afford protection in opposition to their increase as an oblique result of a State s workout of its political powers.
Particularly in managing claims beneath vast provisions of the Constitution, which derive content by using an
Page 364 U. S. 344
interpretive technique of inclusion and exclusion, it's miles imperative that generalizations, primarily based on and certified through the concrete conditions that gave rise to them, must not be carried out out of context in disregard of variation controlling statistics. Thus, a accurate studying of the apparently unconfined dicta of Hunter and kindred cases isn't that the State has plenary strength to govern in each possible manner, for each possible motive, the affairs of its municipal groups, however instead that the State s authority is unrestrained by way of the particular prohibitions of the Constitution taken into consideration in the ones cases.
The Hunter opinion itself intimates that a country legislature won't be all-powerful even as to the disposition of some forms of assets owned via municipal businesses, 207 U.S. at 207 U. S. 178-181. Further, other instances in this Court have refused to allow a State to abolish a municipality, or alter its boundaries, or merge it with every other metropolis, without preserving to the lenders of the old metropolis some effective recourse for the gathering of money owed owed them. Shapleigh v. San Angelo, 167 U. S. 646; Mobile v. Watson, 116 U. S. 289; Mount Pleasant v. Beckwith, a hundred U. S. 514; Broughton v. Pensacola, ninety three U. S. 266. For example, in Mobile v. Watson, the Court said:
"Where the useful resource for the price of the bonds of a municipal organization is the power of taxation present whilst the bonds have been issued, any regulation which withdraws or limits the taxing electricity, and leaves no adequate approach for the charge of the bonds, is forbidden by the constitution of the USA, and is null and void."
Mobile v. Watson, supra, at 116 U. S. 305.
This line of authority conclusively indicates that the Court has never recounted that the States have electricity to do as they'll with municipal groups no matter outcomes. Legislative manage of municipalities, no much less than different kingdom electricity, lies in the scope of relevant
Page 364 U. S. 345
obstacles imposed with the aid of the USA Constitution. The remark in Graham v. Folsom, two hundred U. S. 248, 2 hundred U. S. 253, turns into applicable: "The energy of the country to adjust or spoil its corporations isn't always greater than the strength of the country to repeal its legislation." In that case, which worried the strive via country officials to stay away from the collection of taxes to discharge the duties of an extinguished township, Mr. Justice McKenna, writing for the Court, went directly to factor out, almost about the Mount Pleasant and Mobile cases:
"It turned into argued in the ones cases, as it is argued on this, that such alteration or destruction of the subordinate governmental divisions changed into a right workout of legislative electricity, to which lenders had to submit. The argument did now not succeed. It changed into answered, as we now answer it, that such electricity, giant although it's miles, is met and overcome by way of the supply of the Constitution of the United States which forbids a state from passing any law impairing the obligation of contracts. . . ."
two hundred U.S. at 200 U. S. 253-254.
If all that is so in regard to the constitutional protection of contracts, it have to be equally real that, to paraphrase, such energy, massive even though it's far, is met and conquer by means of the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the US, which forbids a State from passing any regulation which deprives a citizen of his vote because of his race. The opposite end, urged upon us with the aid of respondents, would sanction the fulfillment by using a State of any impairment of balloting rights something, goodbye as it was cloaked within the garb of the realignment of political subdivisions. "It is inconceivable that guaranties embedded inside the Constitution of the United States may hence be manipulated out of lifestyles." Frost & Frost Trucking Co. v. Railroad Commission of California, 271 U. S. 583, 271 U. S. 594.
Page 364 U. S. 346
The respondents discover every other barrier to the trial of this situation in Colegrove v. Green, 328 U. S. 549. In that case, the Court exceeded on an Illinois law governing the arrangement of congressional districts within that State. The criticism rested upon the disparity of populace between the specific districts which rendered the effectiveness of each character s vote in some districts some distance much less than in others. This disparity came to pass entirely through shifts in populace among 1901, when Illinois organized its congressional districts, and 1946, whilst the criticism become lodged. During this complete length, elections had been held under the districting scheme devised in 1901. The Court affirmed the dismissal of the grievance at the floor that it supplied a topic not meet for adjudication. * The decisive facts in this example, which at this level should be taken as proved, are utterly unique from the concerns discovered controlling in Colegrove.
That case involved a complaint of discriminatory apportionment of congressional districts. The appellants in Colegrove complained handiest of a dilution of the electricity of their votes due to legislative state of being inactive over a direction of many years. The petitioners here whinge that affirmative legislative action deprives them in their votes and the resultant blessings that the ballot gives. When a legislature for that reason singles out a comfortably isolated section of a racial minority for unique discriminatory treatment, it violates the Fifteenth Amendment. In no case related to unequal weight in voting distribution that has come earlier than the Court did the selection sanction a differentiation on racial traces whereby approval become given to unequivocal withdrawal of the vote completely from colored residents. Apart from all else, those concerns elevate this
Page 364 U. S. 347
controversy out of the so-known as "political" area and into the conventional sphere of constitutional litigation.
In sum, as Mr. Justice Holmes remarked while managing a associated state of affairs in Nixon v. Herndon, 273 U. S. 536, 273 U. S. 540, "Of path the petition issues political action," but "[t]he objection that the problem depend of the in shape is political is little extra than a play upon words." A statute which is said to have labored unconstitutional deprivations of petitioners rights isn't always resistant to attack genuinely due to the fact the mechanism hired with the aid of the legislature is a redefinition of municipal limitations. According to the allegations right here made, the Alabama Legislature has no longer merely redrawn the Tuskegee metropolis limits with incidental inconvenience to the petitioners; it is extra accurate to say that it has deprived the petitioners of the municipal franchise and consequent rights, and, to that give up, it has by the way modified the city s obstacles. While in shape that is merely an act redefining metes and bounds, if the allegations are established, the inescapable human effect of this essay in geometry and geography is to despoil coloured residents, and simplest coloured citizens, of their theretofore loved vote casting rights. That became no Colegrove v. Green.
When a State sports electricity fully within the domain of country interest, it is insulated from federal judicial assessment. But such insulation is not carried over while kingdom electricity is used as an tool for circumventing a federally included proper. This principle has had many packages. It has lengthy been diagnosed in instances which have prohibited a State from exploiting a strength acknowledged to be absolute in an isolated context to justify the imposition of an "unconstitutional circumstance." What the Court has stated in the ones cases is equally relevant here, viz., that
"Acts normally lawful may also end up illegal while carried out to accomplish an illegal give up, United States v. Reading Co., 226 U. S. 324, 226 U. S. 357, and a constitutional strength can't be used by way of situation to achieve an
Page 364 U. S. 348
unconstitutional end result."
Western Union Telegraph Co. v. Foster, 247 U. S. a hundred and five, 247 U. S. 114. The petitioners are entitled to show their allegations at trial.
For these motives, the principal conclusions of the District Court and the Court of Appeals are virtually faulty, and the choice underneath should be reversed.
MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS, even as becoming a member of the opinion of the Court, adheres to the dissents in Colegrove v. Green, 328 U. S. 549, and South v. Peters, 339 U. S. 276.
* Soon after the selection within the Colegrove case, Governor Dwight H. Green of Illinois, in his 1947 biennial message to the legislature, endorsed a reapportionment. The legislature right away responded, Ill.Sess.Laws 1947, p. 879, and, in 1951, redistricted once more. Ill.Sess.Laws 1951, p. 1924.
(The entire location of the rectangular comprised of the City prior to Act 140. The abnormal black-bordered discern within the square represents the submit-enactment city.)
MR. JUSTICE WHITTAKER, concurring.
I concur in the Court s judgment, however no longer within the complete of its opinion. It appears to me that the decision need to be rested no longer at the Fifteenth Amendment, however rather at the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution. I am doubtful that the averments of the grievance, taken for gift functions to be true, show a purpose by Act No. 140 to abridge petitioners "right . . . to vote" within the Fifteenth Amendment sense. It seems to me that the "right . . . to vote" that is guaranteed by the Fifteenth Amendment is however the same proper to vote as is enjoyed by means of all others within the same election precinct, ward or other political division. And, inasmuch as nobody has the proper to vote in a political division, or in a nearby election concerning most effective a place in which he does now not reside, it would seem to observe that one s right to vote in Division A isn't abridged through a redistricting that locations his house in Division B if he there enjoys the same balloting privileges as all others in that Division, despite the fact that the redistricting become performed by the State for the motive of setting a racial group of citizens in Division B, instead of A.
But it does appear clean to me that accomplishment of a State s cause -- to use the Court s phrase -- of "fencing Negro residents out of" Division A and into Division B is an illegal segregation of races of citizens, in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U. S. 483; Cooper v. Aaron, 358 U. S. 1, and, as said, I might think the decision should be rested on that floor -- which, by the way, in reality would not involve, simply as the referred to instances did not contain, the Colegrove trouble.
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