WELLS v. EDWARDS
409 U.S. 1095 (1973)

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U.S. Supreme Court

WELLS v. EDWARDS , 409 U.S. 1095 (1973)

409 U.S. 1095

Betty WELLS
v.
Edwin EDWARDS et al.
No. 72-621.

Supreme Court of the United States

January 8, 1973

The judgment is affirmed.

Mr. Justice WHITE, with whom Mr. Justice DOUGLAS and Mr. Justice MARSHALL join, dissenting.

The Louisiana constitutional provisions, which this Court today upholds against appellant's renewed constitutional attack, provide for the election of the State's Supreme Court Justices from election districts that are established without regard to population. Voters in five districts, composed of varying numbers of parishes, elect one justice each. A sixth district elects two justices. La. Const., Art. VII, 9. The record before the District Court indicated that there was 'considerable deviation between the population of some of the [election] districts,' 347 F.Supp., at 454,1 and that, therefore, the votes of some qualified voters, depending on the happenstance of residence, were of less value in electing justices than others, cast elsewhere. But the District Court refused even to consider this evidence and, relying on a few isolated sentences in Hadley v. Junior College District, 397 U.S. 50 (1970), concluded that 'the concept of one-man, one-vote apportionment does not apply to the judicial branch of the government.' 347 F.Supp., at 454. Summary judgment was entered against appellant, who had attacked the Louisiana scheme under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

In Hadley, we held that the one-person, one-vote principle extended to the election of trustees for a consolidated junior college district. In doing so, Mr. Justice Black, writing for the Court, stated broadly that, as a general rule, 'whenever a state or local government

Page 409 U.S. 1095 , 1096

decides to select persons by popular election to perform governmental functions, the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment requires that each qualified voter must be given an equal opportunity to participate in that election.' 397 U.S., at 56. The District Court in this case sezed upon the phrase 'persons . . . to perform governmental functions,' and concluded that such persons were limited to 'officials who performed legislative or executive type duties.' 347 F.Supp ., at 455.2 I find no such limiting import in the phrase. Judges are not private citizens who are sought out by litigious neighbors to pass upon their disputes. They are state officials, vested with state powers and elected (or appointed) to carry out the state government's judicial functions. As such, they most certainly 'perform [409 U.S. 1095 , 1097]


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