United Jewish Organizations v. Carey,
430 U.S. 144 (1977)

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U.S. Supreme Court

United Jewish Organizations v. Carey, 430 U.S. 144 (1977)

United Jewish Organizations Williamsburgh, Inc. v. Carey

No. 75-104

Argued October 6, 1976

Decided March 1, 1977

430 U.S. 144


After New York State had submitted for the approval of the Attorney General its 1972 reapportionment statute with respect to Kings County and two other counties which were subject to §§ 4 and 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, he concluded that, as to certain districts in Kings County, the State had not met its burden under § 5 of demonstrating that the redistricting had neither the purpose nor the effect of abridging the right to vote by reason of race or color. In May, 1974, the State submitted to the Attorney General a revision of those portions of the 1972 plan to which he had objected, including provisions for elections to the state senate and assembly from Kings County. The 1974 plan did not change the number of districts with nonwhite majorities, but did change the size of the nonwhite majorities in most of those districts. To attain a nonwhite majority of 65%, which it was felt would be acceptable to the Attorney General for the assembly district in which the Hasidic Jewish community was located (which had been 61% nonwhite under the 1972 plan), a portion of the white population, including part of the Hasidic community, was reassigned to an adjoining district, and that community was also split between two senatorial districts, though it had been within one such district under the 1972 plan. Petitioners, on behalf of the Hasidic community, brought this suit for injunctive and declaratory relief, alleging that the 1974 plan violated their rights under the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. Petitioners contended that the plan "would dilute the value of [their] franchise by halving its effectiveness," solely for the purpose of achieving a racial quota, and that they were assigned to electoral districts solely on the basis of race. Upon motions by the Attorney General (who had advised the State that he did not object to the 1974 plan) and an intervenor, the District Court dismissed the complaint, holding that petitioners enjoyed no constitutional right in reapportionment to separate community recognition as Hasidic Jews; that the redistricting did not disenfranchise them; and that racial considerations were permissible to correct past discrimination. The Court

Page 430 U. S. 145

of Appeals affirmed. Noting that the 1974 plan left approximately 70% of the Kings County senate and assembly districts with white majorities, and that only 65% of the county was white, the court held that the plan would not underrepresent the white population. The court, relying on Allen v. State Board of Elections, 393 U. S. 544, 393 U. S. 569, concluded that a State could use racial considerations in an effort to secure the approval of the Attorney General under the Voting Rights Act, reasoning that the Act contemplated that he and the state legislature would have "to think in racial terms" because the Act "necessarily deals with race or color, corrective action under it must do the same."

Held: The judgment is affirmed. Pp. 430 U. S. 155-168; 430 U. S. 179-180.

510 F.2d 512, affirmed.

MR JUSTICE WHITE, joined by MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN MR. JUSTICE BLACKMUN, and MR. JUSTICE STEVENS, concluded that the use of racial criteria by the State of New York in its 1974 plan in attempting to comply with § 5 of the Act and to secure the approval of the Attorney General did not violate the Fourteenth or Fifteenth Amendment. Pp. 430 U. S. 155-165.

(a) Under § 5, new or revised reapportionment plans are among those voting procedures, standards, or practices that may not be adopted by a State covered by the Act without a ruling by the Attorney General or the specified court that the plan does not have a racially discriminatory purpose or effect. Allen v. State Board of Elections, supra. Pp. 430 U. S. 157-159.

(b) Compliance with the Act in reapportionment cases will often necessitate the use of racial considerations in drawing district lines, and the Constitution does not prevent a State subject to the Act from deliberately creating or preserving black majorities in particular districts in order to ensure that its reapportionment plan complies with § 5. Beer v. United States, 425 U. S. 130; City of Richmond v. United States, 422 U. S. 358. Pp. 430 U. S. 159-161.

(c) Permissible use of racial criteria is not confined to eliminating the effects of past discriminatory districting or apportionment. P. 430 U. S. 161.

(d) A reapportionment cannot violate the Fourteenth or Fifteenth Amendment merely because a State uses specific numerical quotas in establishing a certain number of black majority districts. P. 430 U. S. 162.

(e) Petitioners have not shown or offered to prove that minority voting strength was increased under the 1974 plan in comparison with the 1966 apportionment, and thus have not shown that New York did more than the Attorney General was authorized to require it to do under

Page 430 U. S. 146

the nonretrogression principle of Beer v. United States, supra, a principle that this Court has accepted as constitutionally valid. Pp. 430 U. S. 162-165.

MR. JUSTICE WHITE, joined by MR. JUSTICE STEVENS and MR. JUSTICE REHNQUIST, concluded that, wholly aside from New York's obligations under the Act to preserve minority voting strength in Kings County, the Constitution permits the State to draw lines deliberately in such a way that the percentage of districts with a nonwhite majority roughly approximates the percentage of nonwhites in the county. Though, in individual districts where nonwhite majorities were increased to about 65%, it became more likely that nonwhite candidates would be elected, as long as Kings County whites, as a group, were provided with fair representation, there was no cognizable discrimination against whites. See Gaffney v. Cummings, 412 U. S. 735, 412 U. S. 754. Pp. 430 U. S. 165-168.

MR. JUSTICE STEWART, joined by MR. JUSTICE POWELL, concluded that, having failed to show that the 1974 plan had either the purpose or effect of discriminating against them because of their race, petitioners, who erroneously contend that racial awareness in legislative reapportionment is unconstitutional per se, have offered no basis for affording them the constitutional relief that they seek. Pp. 430 U. S. 179-180.

WHITE, J., announced the Court's judgment, and delivered an opinion in which STEVENS, J., joined; in all but Part IV of which BRENNAN and BLACKMUN, JJ., joined; and in Parts I and IV of which REHNQUIST, J., joined. BRENNAN, J., filed an opinion concurring in part, post, p. 430 U. S. 168. STEWART, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which POWELL, J., joined, post, p. 430 U. S. 179. BURGER, C.J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 430 U. S. 180. MARSHALL, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

Page 430 U. S. 147

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