Rogers v. Lodge
458 U.S. 613 (1982)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Rogers v. Lodge, 458 U.S. 613 (1982)

Rogers v. Lodge

No. 80-2100

Argued February 23, 1982

Decided July 1, 1982

458 U.S. 613

Syllabus

Burke County, Ga., a large, predominately rural county, has an at-large system for electing members of its governing Board of Commissioners. No Negro has ever been elected to the Board. Appellee black citizens of the county filed a class action in Federal District Court, alleging that the at-large system of elections violated, inter alia, appellees' Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendment rights by diluting the voting power of black citizens. Finding that blacks have always made up a substantial majority of the county's population, but that they are a minority of the registered voters, that there had been bloc voting along racial lines, and that past discrimination had restricted the present opportunity of blacks to participate effectively in the political process, the District Court held that, although the state policy behind the at-large electoral system was "neutral in origin," the policy was being maintained for invidious purposes in violation of appellees' Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendment rights. The court then ordered the county to be divided into districts for purposes of electing County Commissioners. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the District Court properly required appellees to prove that the at-large system was maintained for a discriminatory purpose, that the District Court's findings were not clearly erroneous, and that its conclusion that the at-large system was maintained for invidious purposes was "virtually mandated by the overwhelming proof."

Held:

1. The Court of Appeals did not err in concluding that the District Court applied the proper legal standard where it appears that the District Court demonstrated its understanding of the controlling standard by observing that a determination of discriminatory intent was "a requisite to a finding of unconstitutional vote dilution" under the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. Pp. 458 U. S. 616-622.

2. Where neither the District Court's ultimate findings of intentional discrimination nor its subsidiary findings of fact appear to be clearly erroneous, and such findings were agreed to by the Court of Appeals, this Court will not disturb the findings. Pp. 458 U. S. 622-627.

3. Nor is there any reason to overturn the relief ordered by the District Court where neither that court nor the Court of Appeals discerned

Page 458 U. S. 614

any special circumstances that would militate against utilizing single-member districts. Pp. 458 U. S. 627-628.

639 F.2d 1358, affirmed.

WHITE, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and BRENNAN, MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined. POWELL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which REHNQUIST, J., joined, post, p. 458 U. S. 628. STEVENS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 458 U. S. 631.

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