444 U.S. 1050 (1980)

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U.S. Supreme Court

U.S. v. MISSISSIPPI , 444 U.S. 1050 (1980)

444 U.S. 1050


Aaron E. HENRY et al.
No. 79-504

Supreme Court of the United States

February 19, 1980

The judgment is affirmed.

Mr. Justice STEVENS, concurring in the judgment.

In 1965, a three-judge District Court was convened in Mississippi to deal with allegations of malapportionment in Mississippi's State Legislature. By 1975, an acceptable reapportionment plan still had not been formulated; nevertheless, quadrennial elections were held under a court-ordered plan. [Footnote 1] In 1978, the Mississippi Legislature enacted a statutory reapportionment plan, which was submitted to the Attorney General of the United States for preclearance under the Voting Rights Act of 1965, 79 Stat. 437, as amended, 42 U.S.C. 1973 et seq. When the Attorney General objected to the plan, the State brought this action in a three-judge District Court in the District of Columbia, seeking a declaratory judgment that the plan was in compliance with the Act. In 1979, while the Voting Rights Act case was still pending, the three-judge court in Mississippi entered a judgment putting into

Page 444 U.S. 1050 , 1051

effect a reapportionment plan agreed to by all parties. Connor v. Finch, 469 F.Supp. 693 (SD Miss.). That plan was essentially a modified version of the statutory plan.

Under the Voting Rights Act the task confronting the District of Columbia court was to determine whether the statutory plan had the purpose or effect of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race or color. 42 U.S.C. 1973c. An impermissible effect is created whenever a reapportionment plan has the effect of diluting existing black voting strength. See Beer v. United States, 425 U.S. 130, 141, 1363. The District of Columbia court compared the statutory reapportionment plan to the 1979 court-ordered plan in order to determine whether any prohibited retrogression had occurred. Concluding that it had not and that there was no purpose to discriminate evident in the statutory plan, the court granted the State a declaratory judgment approving the plan. Both the United States and intervenors (black voters in Mississippi) appealed. The Court today affirms, without opinion.

In my judgment the only significant issue presented on appeal is whether the statutory plan had the impermissible effect of diluting black voting strength. In his dissenting opinion Mr. Justice MARSHALL presents a persuasive case that there were significant discrepancies between the statutory plan and the 1979 court-ordered plan. Because I believe that the 1979 plan was not the proper benchmark to be used in determining whether there was an impermissible effect, I have no occasion to comment on his conclusion that the differences between the two plans were sufficient to constitute a "dilution" of black voting strength.

As a technical matter, the court-ordered plan was the plan "in effect" at the time the District of Columbia court decided the case. [Footnote 2] Nevertheless, all of the parties to both actions realized that the statutory plan would be used in the 1979 [444 U.S. 1050 , 1052]

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