Houston Lawyers Association v. Lawyer General of Texas
Nos. 90-813, 90-974
Argued April 22, 1991
Decided June 20, 1991
501 U.S. 419
Texas district courts are the State s trial courts of popular jurisdiction. Their judges are elected from electoral districts consisting of one or greater complete counties. The wide variety of judges in every district varies, however every is elected with the aid of citizens in the district in which he or she sits, pursuant to an at-large, district-extensive scheme, and should be a resident of that district. Although numerous judicial candidates inside the same district may be jogging within the equal election, every runs for a one after the other numbered position. In the primary, the winner need to acquire a majority of votes, but in the wellknown election, the candidate with the very best range of votes for a particular numbered function is elected. Petitioners in No. 90974, local chapters of the League of United Latin American Citizens -- an agency composed of Mexican-American and African-American Texas residents and others -- filed suit in the District Court towards respondents, the State Lawyer General and different officials, alleging that the electoral scheme in 10 counties diluted the voting strength of African-American and Hispanic citizens in violation of, inter alia, § 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Petitioners in No. 90-81 -- the Houston Lawyers Association, an enterprise of African-American legal professionals registered to vote in one of the 10 counties, and others -- intervened in guide of the unique plaintiffs. The District Court dominated in petitioners prefer and granted period in-between remedy for the 1990 election. The Court of Appeals reversed, keeping that judicial elections are not covered by way of § 2. A separate opinion concurring within the judgment agreed that elections for unmarried-member workplaces, including the district judgeships, are exempt from § 2. According to that opinion, a district courtroom judge, unlike an appellate choose who acts as a member of a collegial frame, is a single-office holder who has jurisdiction that is coextensive with the geographic location from which he or she is elected, and has authority to render final selections independently of different judges serving inside the equal location or on the same court. The concurrence concluded that exemption from § 2 of elections for district judges is justified,
Page 501 U. S. 420
given the State s compelling interest in linking jurisdiction and non-obligatory base for judges appearing alone, and given the threat that trying to interrupt that linkage might lessen minority influence through making just a few judges basically accountable to the minority voters, instead of making all of them partly responsible to minority citizens.
Held: The Act s insurance encompasses the election of government officers and trial judges whose duties are exercised independently in an area coextensive with the districts from which they are elected. Once a State decides to decide on its trial judges, those elections must be performed in compliance with the Act, in view that judicial elections are not categorically excluded from coverage. Chisom v. Roemer, ante, p. 501 U. S. 380. The nation interest expressed inside the concurring opinion underneath does now not justify except for single-member workplaces from § 2 s coverage. Rather, it's miles a legitimate element to be considered by using courts in determining whether, primarily based at the "totality of circumstances," a vote dilution violation has occurred or can be remedied. Pp. 501 U. S. 425-429.
914 F.2nd 620 (CA5 1990), reversed and remanded.
STEVENS, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which WHITE, MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, O CONNOR, and SOUTER, JJ., joined. SCALIA, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which REHNQUIST, C.J., and KENNEDY, J., joined, publish, p. 501 U. S. 428.
Page 501 U. S. 421
Nos. ninety-813, ninety-974
CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT
Texas district courts are the State s trial courts of trendy jurisdiction. Their judges are elected from electoral districts consisting of 1 or more entire counties. The range of judges in each district varies, however every is elected through citizens in the district in which he or she sits, pursuant to an at-massive, district-wide scheme, and must be a resident of that district. Although numerous judicial applicants inside the identical district may be going for walks inside the identical election, every runs for a one after the other numbered function. In the number one, the winner need to receive a majority of votes, but in the fashionable election, the candidate with the highest quantity of votes for a specific numbered position is elected. Petitioners in No. 90974, nearby chapters of the League of United Latin American Citizens -- an organization composed of Mexican-American and African-American Texas citizens and others -- filed fit in the District Court in opposition to respondents, the State Lawyer General and other officers, alleging that the electoral scheme in 10 counties diluted the voting electricity of African-American and Hispanic citizens in violation of, inter alia, § 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Petitioners in No. 90-eighty one -- the Houston Lawyers Association, an company of African-American lawyers registered to vote in one of the 10 counties, and others -- intervened in guide of the original plaintiffs. The District Court dominated in petitioners want and granted interim relief for the 1990 election. The Court of Appeals reversed, protecting that judicial elections are not protected by way of § 2. A separate opinion concurring within the judgment agreed that elections for single-member workplaces, which include the district judgeships, are exempt from § 2. According to that opinion, a district courtroom judge, not like an appellate judge who acts as a member of a collegial body, is a unmarried-office holder who has jurisdiction that is coextensive with the geographic vicinity from which she or he is elected, and has authority to render very last decisions independently of other judges serving within the same place or on the same court docket. The concurrence concluded that exemption from § 2 of elections for district judges is justified,
given the State s compelling hobby in linking jurisdiction and non-obligatory base for judges appearing alone, and given the risk that attempting to interrupt that linkage may reduce minority have an effect on via making just a few judges mainly responsible to the minority voters, in place of making all of them partly accountable to minority electorate.
Held: The Act s coverage encompasses the election of government officers and trial judges whose responsibilities are exercised independently in an area coextensive with the districts from which they're elected. Once a State makes a decision to decide on its trial judges, the ones elections must be carried out in compliance with the Act, due to the fact that judicial elections are not categorically excluded from coverage. Chisom v. Roemer, ante, p. 501 U. S. 380. The state hobby expressed in the concurring opinion below does now not justify excluding single-member places of work from § 2 s insurance. Rather, it's far a legitimate aspect to be taken into consideration via courts in figuring out whether, based totally at the "totality of occasions," a vote dilution violation has came about or can be remedied. Pp. 501 U. S. 425-429.
STEVENS, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which WHITE, MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, O CONNOR, and SOUTER, JJ., joined. SCALIA, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which REHNQUIST, C.J., and KENNEDY, J., joined, submit, p. 501 U. S. 428.
JUSTICE STEVENS delivered the opinion of the Court.
In Chisom v. Roemer, ante, p. 501 U. S. 380, we held that judicial elections, and, greater specially, elections of justices of the Supreme Court of Louisiana, are blanketed with the aid of § 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, 79 Stat. 437, as amended in 1982, forty two U.S.C. § 1973. In this example, we do not forget whether the statute also applies to the election of trial judges in Texas. We preserve that it does.
Petitioners in No. ninety-974 are local chapters of the League of United Latin American Citizens, a statewide organization composed of each Mexican-American and African-American residents of the State of Texas, and numerous individuals. They brought this motion against the Lawyer General of
Page 501 U. S. 422
Texas and different officers (respondents) to challenge the prevailing at-huge, countywide method of electing country district judges. Although the unique mission encompassed the entire State, and relied on both constitutional and statutory grounds, the troubles had been later narrowed to consist of best a statutory task to the balloting methods in only 10 counties. * Petitioners in No. ninety-813 are the Houston Lawyers Association, an company of African-American legal professionals who are registered electorate in Harris County, and positive individuals; they are intervenors, assisting the placement of the unique plaintiffs. Because all the petitioners have the identical interest inside the threshold difficulty of statutory creation that is now earlier than us, we shall refer to them collectively as "petitioners."
Texas district courts are the State s trial courts of preferred jurisdiction. Electoral districts for Texas district judges consist of one or extra complete counties. Eight of the districts blanketed in this situation consist of a single county; the opposite district includes two counties. The quantity of district judges in each district at difficulty varies from the 59 that sit down within the Harris County district to the 3 that sit within the Midland County district. Each judge is elected by way of the voters in the district wherein he or she sits pursuant to an at-huge, district-huge electoral scheme, and have to be a resident of that district. Although several judicial applicants inside the identical district may be jogging within the same election, every runs for a one by one numbered function. Thus, for example, if there are 25 vacancies inside the Harris County district in a specific yr, there are 25 district-huge races for 25 separately numbered positions. In the number one elections, the winner must receive a majority of votes, however in the general election, the candidate with the best range of votes for a selected numbered role is elected.
Page 501 U. S. 423
Petitioners challenged the at-large, district-wide electoral scheme as diluting the voting energy of African American and Hispanic citizens. They referred to the instance of Harris County, which has a populace this is 20% African American but has most effective 3 of 59 district judges which are African American. The petitioners alleged that alternative electoral schemes using electoral subdistricts or modified at-large structures should treatment the dilution of minority votes in district judge elections.
Following a one-week trial, the District Court dominated in desire of petitioners on their statutory vote dilution declare. It concluded that petitioners had sustained their burden of proving that, below the totality of the situations,
"due to the challenged at-huge machine, [they] do now not have an identical opportunity to take part in the political techniques and to pick candidates in their desire,"
App. to Pet. for Cert., 290a-291a; 300a-301a. Although the District Court made no findings about the ideal treatment for the proven violation, it advised the country legislature to select and approve an alternative district judge election scheme. The District Court also announced that it would entertain motions to enjoin future district judge elections pending the remedy section of the litigation, ought to the legislature fail to undertake an alternative election scheme. When the state legislature did not act, the District Court granted interim relief (to be used totally for the 1990 election of district judges within the 9 districts) that protected the introduction of electoral subdistricts and a prohibition in opposition to using partisan elections for district judges. Respondents appealed.
A 3-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit reversed the judgment of the District Court, 902 F.2nd 293 (1990), and petitioners movement for rehearing en banc turned into granted, 902 F.2nd 322 (1990). The en banc majority held that the effects take a look at in § 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, as amended in 1982, is inapplicable to judicial elections. See 914 F.second 620 (1990). In essence, the majority concluded that Congress reference to
Page 501 U. S. 424
the citizens possibility to opt for "representatives" in their desire evidenced a deliberate selection to exclude the election of judges from scrutiny below the newly enacted test. For reasons stated in our opinion in Chisom, ante at 501 U. S. 391-403, we reject that conclusion.
In a separate opinion, quantities of which were joined by way of five other judges, Judge Higginbotham expressed his disagreement with the majority s end that judges are not "representatives" within the meaning of the Act, but concurred within the judgment of reversal. His opinion trusted a distinction between kingdom appellate judges and trial judges. Whereas the justices of the Louisiana Supreme Court have statewide jurisdiction, despite the fact that they are elected by electorate in separate districts, and act as members of a collegial frame, the Texas trial judge has jurisdiction this is coextensive with the geographic area from which he or she is elected, and has the only authority to render final choices. Judge Higginbotham s opinion characterized trial judges "as single-office holders, in place of individuals of a multi-member frame," 914 F.second at 649 (concurring opinion), due to the fact every exercises his or her authority independently of the opposite judges serving in the same location or at the equal courtroom. Given the State s "compelling hobby in linking jurisdiction and optional base for judges performing on my own," id. at 651, and the danger that "attempting to interrupt the linkage of jurisdiction and optional base . . . may additionally properly lessen minority have an impact on, as opposed to increase it," identification. at 649, by means of making only some district court judges principally accountable to the minority voters, in preference to making all the district s judges partly responsible to minority electorate, he concluded that elections for single-member places of work, along with elections for Texas district courtroom judgeships, are exempt from vote dilution demanding situations under § 2.
Chief Judge Clark, even as agreeing with the judgment of reversal on grounds "expressly constrained to the records of the present case," 914 F.second at 631 (concurring opinion), disagreed
Page 501 U. S. 425
with the analysis in each the majority and the concurring opinion. He expressed the opinion that "it's far similarly incorrect to say that section 2 covers all judicial elections as it's miles to mention it covers none," identity. at 633 (emphasis in authentic). Characterizing Judge Higginbotham s "feature-of-the-office evaluation" as "same in idea to the bulk view," ibid., Chief Judge Clark would have held that, on every occasion an officeholder s jurisdiction and the location of residence of his or her voters coincide, no vote dilution claims may be introduced against at-big schemes for electing the officeholder, regardless of whether or not the "characteristic" of the officeholder is to act on my own or as a member of a collegial body.
In a dissenting opinion, Judge Johnson argued that the Act applies to all judicial elections:
"Several truths are self-obtrusive from the clear language of the statute that had heretofore opened the electoral system to human beings of all colorations. The Voting Rights Act specializes in the voter, now not the elected professional. The Act was supposed to prohibit racial discrimination in all voting, the only inquiry being whether the political procedures are equally open to all folks, irrespective of their race or shade. The Act is worried simplest with the motive of folks of race or color in casting a ballot ; it has no hobby in the function of the man or woman conserving the workplace."
Id. at 652 (dissenting opinion) (emphasis in original).
We granted certiorari in those cases, 498 U.S. 1060 (1991), and in Chisom v. Roemer, ante, p. 501 U. S. 380, for the restrained motive of thinking about the scope of the coverage of § 2. As we have held in Chisom, the Act does no longer categorically exclude judicial elections from its coverage. The time period "representatives" isn't a word of drawback. Nor can the safety of minority citizens unitary right to an identical opportunity "to take part within the political method and to choose representatives of their desire" be bifurcated into two types of claims
Page 501 U. S. 426
in judicial elections, one protected and the alternative past the attain of the Act. Ante at 501 U. S. 398. It is similarly clean, in our opinion, that the insurance of the Act encompasses the election of govt officers and trial judges whose obligations are exercised independently in an area coextensive with the districts from which they're elected. If a State comes to a decision to pick its trial judges, as Texas did in 1861, those elections should be performed in compliance with the Voting Rights Act.
We deliberately keep away from any assessment of the merits of the worries expressed in Judge Higginbotham s concurring opinion because we trust they're subjects that are relevant both to an evaluation of the totality of the instances that must be taken into consideration in an utility of the results check embodied in § 2, as amended, or to a consideration of possible remedies in the occasion a contravention is proved, however now not to the threshold question of the Act s coverage. Even if we anticipate, arguendo, that the State s interest in electing judges on a district-wide basis may also avert a remedy that involves redrawing boundaries or subdividing districts, or may additionally even avoid a locating that vote dilution has occurred underneath the "totality of the instances" in a specific case, that hobby does now not justify apart from elections for unmarried-member workplaces from the coverage of the § 2 outcomes take a look at. Rather, any such nation interest is a element to be considered by using the court in comparing whether the proof in a specific case supports a finding of a vote dilution violation in an election for a single-member office.
Thus we disagree with respondents that the "unmarried-member workplace" principle automatically exempts sure elections from the insurance of § 2. Rather, we accept as true with that the State s hobby in retaining an electoral system -- in this situation, Texas hobby in maintaining the link between a district judge s jurisdiction and the place of residency of his or her electorate -- is a legitimate thing to be considered by means of courts a number of the "totality of occasions" in figuring out whether or not a § 2 violation has took place. A State s justification for its electoral
Page 501 U. S. 427
machine is a proper issue for the courts to evaluate in a racial vote dilution inquiry, and the Fifth Circuit has expressly accredited the usage of this precise element in the stability of considerations. See Zimmer v. McKeithen, 485 F.2d 1297, 1305 (CA5 1973), aff d sub nom. East Carroll Parish School Bd. v. Marshall, 424 U. S. 636 (1976). Because the State s interest in keeping an at-massive, district-extensive electoral scheme for single-member workplaces is merely one thing to be considered in comparing the "totality of instances," that interest does not robotically, and in every case, outweigh evidence of racial vote dilution.
Two examples will give an explanation for why the "single-member workplace" theory, even supposing widespread, cannot suffice to location an election for a unmarried-member officeholder entirely past the coverage of § 2 of the Act. First, if a specific practice or process, such as final the polls at midday, outcomes in an abridgment of a racial minority s possibility to vote and to choose representatives in their desire, the Act would truly follow to restrict such practices, irrespective of whether or not the election was for a unmarried-member officeholder or no longer. Exempting elections for unmarried-member offices from the attain of § 2 altogether can consequently not be supported. As we said in advance, this statute does no longer separate vote dilution demanding situations from different demanding situations delivered beneath the amended § 2. See supra at 501 U. S. 425-426.
Second, if the limits of the electoral district -- and perhaps of its neighboring district as properly -- were shaped in "an uncouth twenty-8-sided determine" including that observed in Gomillion v. Lightfoot, 364 U. S. 339, 364 U. S. 340 (1960), and if the impact of the configuration had been to provide an unnatural distribution of the voting power of different racial agencies, an inquiry into the totality of occasions could at least arguably be required to decide whether or now not the results test turned into violated. Placing elections for single-member places of work totally beyond the scope of insurance of § 2 might ward off such an inquiry, even if the State s hobby in retaining
Page 501 U. S. 428
the "uncouth" electoral gadget become trivial or illusory, or even if any ensuing impairment of a minority group s vote casting strength will be remedied without notably impairing the State s hobby in electing judges on a district-huge basis.
Because the effects test in § 2 of the Voting Rights Act applies to claims of vote dilution in judicial elections, see Chisom, ante at 501 U. S. 404, and because the issues expressed with the aid of Judge Higginbotham in distinguishing elections of Texas district courtroom judges from elections of superb court justices relate to the query whether a vote dilution violation may be determined or remedied, in place of whether such a venture may be brought, we reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals and remand the case for in addition complaints steady with this opinion.
It is so ordered.
* The counties at issue are: Harris, Dallas, Tarrant, Bexar, Travis, Jefferson, Lubbock, Crosby, Ector, and Midland.
JUSTICE SCALIA, with whom THE CHIEF JUSTICE and JUSTICE KENNEDY join, dissenting.
For the reasons stated in my view in Chisom v. Roemer,ante, p. 501 U. S. 404, I could not practice § 2 of the Voting Rights Act to vote dilution claims in judicial elections, and could therefore affirm the judgment beneath.
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